Literature Review: Double barriers or outgroup advantage

FOTO CREDIT: Wolfgang Gregor

Stockemer, D and Sundström, A. (2018) ‘Do young female candidates face double barriers or an outgroup advantage?’, The case of the European Parliament. European Journal of Political Research (online first) 2018, DOI: 10.1111/1475-6765.12280.

In the recent article, Stockemer and Sundström ask whether young women, compared to older women, are more likely to be elected to parliaments. Since most male representatives are middle-aged to senior, such a negative relationship between age and electoral success of women appears counter-intuitive. Yet, theories about biases in recruitment practices indicate that candidates with two outgroup traits such as young women might actually have better chances to be granted viable list positions. The intersectional identity (in this case being young and female) allows party gatekeepers to increase the representativeness of lists with candidates who complement the traditional profile of incumbents (i.e. typically white middle-aged men) while securing their own superiority. The authors look at the European parliament to test this expectation studying all MEPs that served between 1979 and 2019. They show that women’s representation is highest among the youngest representatives aged 40 or younger and lowest among MEPs 60 years and older.

By analyzing the attributes of women who get elected to the EP, this study takes an interesting angle going beyond most studies on women’s descriptive representation. Through this mean, they identify a moderating effect of candidates’ gender on the relationship between age and electoral success: Age increases chances to enter parliaments for men but decreases them for women. However, what is the causal mechanism at hand? The article’s rationale focuses on nominating strategies of parties, but does not consider candidate lists which are the direct outcome of parties’ recruitment procedures. Hence, I would be interested to see whether the articles’ results remain similar when analyzing candidate lists or even viable list positions rather than election results, or whether voters’ reactions to the candidates placed in front of them might partly affect the electoral success of younger and older women differently. Based on this innovative study, researchers can now address a whole new range of research questions that aim to uncover the mechanisms at hand.

By Sarah C. Dingler in September 2018

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