The Impact of Gender in the Legislative Process

Publication Date


Document Type

Book Chapter


In this chapter we outline theories accounting for gender differences in the behavior of male and female lawmakers with particular emphasis on psychology as a source for providing explanations for why they exist. Next we explore the general state of the research on gender differences in legislative bodies including surveys of the literature covering the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate, and state legislatures with an eye toward identifying where such differences have manifested themselves and where they have not. We then turn to a discussion of recent studies successfully utilizing a psychological understanding of behavior to illuminate the gendered dimensions of legislative activity. While the barriers to studying elite behavior from a psychological perspective are many—including gaining the cooperation of elites, persuading scholars that the external validity of experimental research can apply to legislators, and the limited number of female legislators—we delineate future avenues for overcoming these hurdles and building on this scholarship to contribute to a greater understanding of the differences between male and female legislators and the reasons why those differences might exist.

Original Citation

Frederick, B. & Jenkins, S. (2017). The Impact of Gender in the Legislative Process. In A.L. Bos & M.C. Schneider (Eds.), The Political Psychology of Women in U.S. Politics (pp. 205-220). New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

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