Quota Effects Moderated by Descriptive Gender Representation within Legislatures: A Cross-National Analysis

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This study revisits the links between gender quotas and gender egalitarian outcomes by focusing on the role of gender representative legislatures. Specifically, it investigates whether gender quotas have a substantive and symbolic effect on societal outcomes, and whether the link is moderated by women’s descriptive representation changing over time. This study sheds empirical light on both outputs (or process) and outcomes (or impact) of a quota policy and offers insight into pathways by which increased women’s representation within legislatures reinforces or weakens the effect of the quota policies. The panel data analysis drawn from 169 countries over the recent three decades (1990-2017) reveals a significant interactive effect of quotas and women’s representation in legislatures, suggesting that quotas’ societal impact increases as women’s representation increases, but with diminishing returns to a certain point. The findings corroborate the 30% level to which gender quotas as a policy tool significantly impact women’s political empowerment and raise questions on the validity of the critical mass argument in the political setting.