Women Politicians, Institutions, and Perceptions of Corruption

Tiffany D. Barnes, Emily Beaulieu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

95 Scopus citations


Why do people assume female politicians are less likely than men to engage in the illegal use of public positions for private gain? We argue that voters may perceive women as marginalized within political institutions, or as more risk averse and consequently more constrained by institutional oversight, which could lead to perceptions of women as less likely to engage in corruption. Using an original survey experiment, we test these mechanisms against conventional wisdom that women are seen as more honest. We find strong support for the risk aversion explanation, as well as heterogeneous effects by respondent sex for both the marginalization and honesty mechanisms. These findings suggest that the institutional contexts in which women are operating can help explain why people perceive them as less likely to engage in corruption. Identifying these mechanisms is critical to understanding the role of women in politics and for improving trust in government.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)134-167
Number of pages34
JournalComparative Political Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2018.


  • corruption
  • gender
  • institutions
  • marginalization
  • mediation
  • risk aversion
  • survey experiment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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