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Title: Gender and Congressional Campaign Finance
Authors: Kim, Hyun
Advisors: Canes-Wrone, Brandice
Department: Woodrow Wilson School
Class Year: 2016
Abstract: Campaign finance presents a central policy question, as it may explain one factor behind the enduring underrepresentation of women in Congress. Although previous research has found that gender does not affect donation levels, female candidates themselves have consistently expressed that soliciting money is more difficult for women. This thesis attempts to resolve this discrepancy. Because women differ from their male counterparts on a variety of attributes that affect fundraising ability, such as incumbency status and party leadership, a simple comparison of mean donations is insufficient. Thus, the author has produced a data set that incorporates the finances and candidate characteristics of the major party nominees in the 2012 and 2014 House of Representatives elections. Through a series of ordinary least squares linear regressions, this thesis then investigates the effects of gender and a series of control terms on individual, political action committee (PAC), party, candidate, and total contributions. The paper then repeats these regressions across Republican, Democrat, and incumbent specifications to examine the influence of gender among different populations. With the exception of Republican women, who actually outraised Republican men, the models find no significant gender differences in total contributions across the population subsets. Gender therefore failed to diminish women’s overall funding levels. However, the models evaluate that women nevertheless have not reached complete financial parity, as male and female candidates relied on different donation sources. The analysis of all candidates reveals that gender directly increased the individual and decreased the PAC funding received by women. Surprisingly, gender seems to have benefitted Republican women the most, as Republican women significantly outraised Republican men in both individual and total contributions and did not suffer from the PAC financing gap found in the all candidates, Democrat, and incumbent specifications. In contrast, female Democrats lacked an individual contributions boost and faced a significant PAC donations handicap when compared to their male counterparts. Likewise, incumbent women received diminished PAC revenues as a function of their gender and did not enjoy an individual contributions advantage. Finally, the model indicates that female incumbents began their reelection campaigns with smaller accumulated war chests than did analogous men. The significant coefficients identified by the models thus demonstrate that gender directly affects fundraising. The gender disparities outlined above support the perceptions of female candidates and contradict the existing scholarship’s assertions of complete financial equity. At the very least, these trends reveal that even if male and female candidates are raising comparable total sums, they prefer to collect their funds from different sources. At worst, they suggest that women are forced to solicit additional individual donations to offset their PAC funding disadvantage and compete evenly with men. However, while the models show that these differences exist, their origins are beyond the scope of this paper. Future research on the topic is necessary to establish which explanations are the most convincing. Once these root causes are determined, addressing them should become a central concern for policy makers. Closing these financial gaps may improve the electoral prospects of female candidates, producing a more equitable Congress that arguably better reflects the interests and composition of its constituents.
Extent: 108 pages
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en_US
Appears in Collections:Woodrow Wilson School, 1929-2016

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