Student Research Projects

The Political Cure: Gender Quotas and Women’s Health

Student Carissa Chantiles, ‘13
Faculty Mentor(s)
Department Political Science
Course POLS 491: Advanced Research in Political Science


Political gender quotas have become the go-to solution for most governments hoping to increase women’s visual and substantive representation in national and local government. Today 92 countries have implemented some form of gender quota in their political systems. However, the debate still rages over whether quotas achieve their stated objectives. There is some consensus that under the right conditions, quotas do increase the number of women elected to office. However, there is no consistent answer to the following questions: What impact do quotas have on politics more generally? Do quotas make a real difference in the lives of non-political women? We argue that the different forms in which quotas are implemented result in diverse effects in substantive representation. Using women’s health issues to illustrate the substantive effect of women’s political participation through quotas, we find legal candidate quotas, which set a legal requirement for the share of women on candidate lists, are most often associated with improvements in maternal mortality, infant mortality, access to contraception and women’s life expectancy. These results offer great insights into the influence of quotas and the link between politics and public health.