Descriptive Representation and Party Building: Evidence from Municipal Governments in Brazil

Tanushree Goyal, Cameron Sells

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This article highlights a new way in which descriptive representation enhances democracy through inclusive party building. We theorize that parties retain and promote incumbents based on gendered criteria, disproportionately incentivizing women to recruit party members. However, gendered resource inequalities lower women's access to the patronage required for recruitment. Women respond by recruiting more women members, as it lowers recruitment costs, is role-congruent, and eases credit claiming. Using rich administrative data on party membership from 2004 to 2020 and a regression discontinuity design in Brazil, we find that, despite resource disparities, women mayors recruit new members at similar rates as men but reduce the gender gap in party membership. As expected, women are more likely to be promoted in constituencies where they most lower the gender gap in party membership. We also find that women's increased membership improves party resilience. Our findings suggest that descriptive representation strengthens party building by including underrepresented citizens.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAmerican Political Science Review
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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