A re-examination of contextual effects upon female House candidates' electoral performances, 1982-1998



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Texas Tech University


This research is about women running for the U.S. House of Representatives. Specifically, within the time period 1982 to 1998,1 examine female performances in House elections to retest Wilma Rule's (1981) thesis that a House district must have a strong "social welfare context" for women to win both a major party nomination and election to Congress. By "social welfare context" in a House district, I mean o higher level of urbanization, more households receiving public assistance income, and a higher percentage of women laborers sixteen years old and older. I also incorporate into my models various national and sociopolitical control variables measuring House district partisanship, comparative female-male candidate electoral experience, and comparative female-mole two-party campaign spending.

In this research, I discover that a social welfare context effect upon women's House candidacies may be both place-specific and time-specific. In general, I uncover what many women-in-politics scholars have uncovered in previous research efforts. Sex and gender seem to determine the likelihood that congressional candidates will hove the attributes (money, experience, etc.) that voters to recognize and reward more often in elections. In other words, women candidates may hove in voters' minds a collective uniqueness that may not electorally work for them most of the time.