Haishan Yuan | The University of Queensland

Using a novel data set of candidates in Japanese local elections, I document that women are severely under-represented in Japanese local governments and disadvantaged in elections. Female candidates perform as good as male candidates in local council elections. Female candidates on average are also as likely as male candidates to run in the following council elections and prefecture assembly elections. However, while more popular councilmen are much more likely to run for mayors in the following elections than less popular councilmen, the positive relationship between popularity and tendency to run for mayors is much weaker for councilwomen. These findings suggest that female candidates lack advancement opportunities for higher offices rather than willingness to participate in politics. Using a Regression Discontinuity (RD) design, I find that in municipal council elections, the incumbency advantages in future elections are similar between current female incumbents and current male incumbents. The incumbency advantages for current male non-incumbents are not significantly higher than current male incumbents. However, the incumbency advantages are significantly higher for current female non-incumbents than current female incumbents. The difference-in-difference of RD-identified and nonparametrically estimated incumbency advantages suggests that female candidates have higher unobserved qualities, which are partially revealed through incumbency. Voters are biased against unfamiliar female candidates.

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