Date of Award

2017

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Honors Thesis

Department

Political Science

First Advisor

Caitlin B. Shufeldt

Second Advisor

Margaret Brabant

Third Advisor

Terri Jett

Abstract

Approaching the 100-year anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment, women comprise approximately 51 percent of the American population but hold only 24.8 percent of state legislative seats and 19.4 percent of United States Congressional seats. The scholarly literature suggests that one contributing factor to this inequality is a real or perceived gender difference in fundraising success. My hypothesis is that state public financing programs will decrease gender inequality in state legislative offices. I examined the role campaign finance plays in gender inequality in elected office by conducting a comparative case study of the state legislatures of Minnesota and Iowa from 1975 to 2017. Since Minnesota and Iowa are similar in many of the other theoretical factors attributed to gender equality, I am able to isolate the effect of public financing. Minnesota implemented a public financing program for state legislative office in 1974. Iowa does not have a public financing program and allows unlimited campaign donations by various types of donors. In 1975, women comprised 4% of state legislative seats in Minnesota and 9% of state legislative seats in Iowa. Currently, Minnesota’s state legislature is 32% women, and Iowa’s state legislature is 22% women. According to the Center for American Women and Politics, Minnesota ranks ninth and Iowa ranks thirty-first in terms of gender equality in state legislative chambers. I hope my research can provide a preliminary understanding of how public campaign financing can increase gender equality in elected office.

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