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Gender Quota Adoption and the Qualifications of Parliamentarians

Gender quotas in legislative elections are a central component of institutional reform to foster women’s inclusion in politics. However, stigma remains that women elected under quotas may be of lower quality than the men that they replace. We investigate how quotas affect the qualifications of parliamentarians, by capitalizing on the unique variation of national electoral systems used in European Parliament elections over its entire 40-year history. We provide compelling evidence that quotas are associated with higher overall levels of educational attainment in parliamentary delegations. Quotas increase the number of educated women within delegations while simultaneously increasing the level of education held by the remaining men. Thus, we provide robust support for the impact of quotas on legislator qualities in a way that has thus far been observed in only single country contexts and fixed time periods.