Blue leads to more green? Women make more money when Democrats hold office


New study shows that Democratic rule brings higher incomes and lower unemployment rates for women.


SAN DIEGO, Calif. — Does more Democrats in Congress mean more money for female workers? Almost certain to incite partisan debate, a new study from the University of California, San Diego finds Democratic control of state houses leads to improvements in women’s wages, overall income, and unemployment rates.

In 2018, female wages across all 50 states were, on average, about 70 percent that of men. According to this research however, just a few years after a Democrat wins in a given state, that gap lessens by 3.6 percent. Even just a slim Democratic majority in the House is estimated to produce a 2.6-percent reduction in the wage gap.

“No voting bloc is more important in American elections than women,” says first author Zoltan Hajnal, a professor of political scientist at UC San Diego’s School of Global Policy and Strategy, in a university release. “With women accounting for more than half of all votes, small shifts in the female vote can and likely will determine who wins in November.”

What about the White House?

Researchers examined increases and decreases in gender inequality across presidential administrations over the past half century. Once again, Democratic control appears to foster more equal treatment of women in the workplace, at least monetarily. Over the past 50 years, women’s income grew nearly twice as fast ($443 more per year) during Democratic presidencies in comparison to when a Republican held the highest office in the land ($284 per year).

Female poverty and unemployment rates also improved more during Democratic presidencies.

To come to their conclusions, the research team examined male and female wages, poverty, income and employment rates across all 50 states on an annual basis over the past 50 years. Importantly, they wanted to see when women were “catching up” to men in terms of compensation. They focused specifically on instances when Democrats or Republicans just barely gained a majority advantage in the House.

“Just one year of Democratic control leads to a one percentage point increase in the female-male income ratio, a 0.7 percentage point decline in the wage gap, a 0.4 percent decline in the female-male employment gap, and a .28 percent decline in the male-female poverty gap,” study authors explain.

The unfair gender wage gap is still very much a reality in modern America. For example, the National Women’s Law Center estimates that a woman must currently work the exact same job for 50 years to earn the same amount of money males would working 40 years. The study’s authors say their findings may prove invaluable in terms of ending gender inequality in the workplace.

How do you fill the gender wage gap?

So, how exactly are Democrats closing the gender income gap more efficiently than Republicans? Researchers say there are two main factors likely at play.

“The first is gender policy… Democratic control of the state houses leads to significantly more liberal policies on gender discrimination and access to family planning. The other factor is female representation. We find that having more women in office also leads to more liberal gender policy and likely contributes to improvement on basic economic indicators for women.”

“Any impact of female legislators is entirely contingent on having Democrats control the house majority,” the UC San Diego team concludes. “Having women in office greatly matters for gender policy, but only when Democrats control the agenda.”

Notably, no relationship between conservative/liberal control of governor positions or state senate positions and gender inequality improvements was noted.

The study is published in Legislative Studies Quarterly.

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