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Article by Professor Dana Wittmer Wolfe Wins Top Prize

A paper co-authored by Colorado College Associate Professor of Political Science Dana Wittmer Wolfe has been named the best article published last year in the journal Political Science Research and Methods, part of Cambridge University Press.

The prize is awarded annually to the best article published in PSRM. Wolfe’s article, “Women’s Issues and Their Fates in the US Congress,” published last fall, took the prize for 2018.

Wolfe, with co-authors Craig Volden, of the University of Virginia, and Alan E. Wiseman, of Vanderbilt University, write that “significant scholarship indicates that female legislators focus their attention on ‘women’s issues’ to a greater extent than do male lawmakers.” Drawing on more than 40 years of bill sponsorship data from the US House of Representatives, they define women’s issues in terms of those sponsored at a greater rate by women in Congress.

That research also was the basis of an article the team co-authored in The Washington Post earlier this year, titled “How the record number of female lawmakers will — and won’t — change Congress.”

“Our analysis reveals that most (but not all) of the classically considered women’s issues are indeed raised at an enhanced rate by congresswomen,” according to the paper’s abstract. “We then track the fate of those issues. While 4 percent of all bills become law, that rate drops to 2 percent for women’s issues and to only 1 percent for women’s issue bills sponsored by women themselves.”

They note that the pattern persists over time — from the early 1970s through today — and upon controlling for other factors that influence bills success rates.

The winning paper goes on to note that the last several decades have seen a significant rise in the number of women gaining access to political institutions in the United States. Since the early 1970s women have increased their numbers in the United States Congress by more than six fold, and now hold 19 percent of the seats in the U.S. House and 20 percent of the seats in the U.S. Senate.

“While still far short of parity, the increase in female representation has spurred many questions about what differences, if any, exist between male and female legislators,” Wolfe and her co-authors write.

The team links the bias against women’s issues to the committee process, and suggest several avenues for further research.

Political Science Research and Methods (PSRM) is a general political science journal dedicated to publishing original scholarly work of the highest quality from all subfields of political science. The journal specifically focuses on research applying rigorous methods to empirical or theoretical problems and promotes a rigorous scientific approach to the study of politics.