Political Inclusion and Labor Market Participation

Can feeling politically included have welfare-enhancing effects among historically excluded groups? While we know that descriptive representation has positive impacts on many political outcomes, little evidence demonstrates the effects of political inclusion on non-political outcomes. Yet we have theoretical reason to expect that inclusion in government might translate into broadly positive effects for members of marginalized groups. We break new ground by showing that women are more likely to participate in the labor market when they feel politically included. Using a sample of U.S. women, we first experimentally show that subjects who are made to feel more politically included are significantly more likely to indicate interest in applying to jobs. Further, we find evidence that the mechanism through which treated women are more likely to enter the labor market varies by partisan identification, and with feelings of marginalization more generally. That is, Republican women are empowered, while Democratic women update their beliefs about the levels of discrimination they are likely to experience when applying for jobs. We find similar results using behavioral measures in a lab setting in the United Kingdom, where we also uncover a countervailing effect on men’s beliefs about levels of discrimination. Our findings have important implications for the non-political benefits of political inclusion along identity lines. Our results also provide some evidence that caution should be taken when introducing further inclusion, since shifts to the political status quo may temporarily lead to increased expectations of discrimination among historically dominant groups.