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In 1993, the Indian government approved a constitutional amendment that would forever change the face of rural politics. The landmark legislation mandated that village councils--traditionally the bastion of higher caste males--hold regular elections and reserve one-third of the seats for women. India, however, was not alone in its efforts to increase women's representation in elected government. By 2012, half the world's countries had adopted political quotas for women.

Despite the rapid rise of political quota systems there was remarkably little rigorous evidence on their effectiveness. Did more female leaders result in more gender equal societies? Could a mandatory change in the balance of power reduce discrimination against women? The design of the Indian quota system gave social scientists a unique opportunity to examine the causal impact of gender quotas. This case profiles findings from the body of rigorous evidence on the impacts of female political quotas in India--with potential lessons for governments and businesses everywhere.

Learning Objective:
The Indian government's process of randomly assigning Indian village council seats to women helped researchers find credible answers to longstanding questions about the effects of gender quotas. With the help of the case, students learn the fundamentals of asserting causality and develop the skills to become better consumers of evidence, as they seek rigorous answers to important policy questions.

Other Details

Teaching Plan:
Available with Educator Access
Case Author:
Anjani Datla
Faculty Lead:
Rohini Pande
Pages (incl. exhibits):
Funding Source:
Joseph B. Tompkins, Jr. Fund for Case Study and Research