This paper finds that, in India, increasing female political representation increases the probability that an individual will attain primary education in urban areas, but not in rural areas, and not in the study sample as a whole. The difference between rural and urban areas may be explained by female politicians investing more in education where women can gain more benefit from it, or by educational investments being more visible to voters in urban areas.
The paper studies the impact of the gender of politicians in Indian state governments on the educational achievements of a sample of citizens who live in the districts where these politicians are elected. It uses a dataset containing information on 29,686 politicians who contested seats in the 16 largest states in India during the period 1967–2001. These data are combined with National Sample Survey data to estimate the effect of the gender of politicians on the primary educational attainment of individuals who were of school age when those politicians were in power in their districts in India.
Findings indicate that female politicians increase educational attainment in urban areas. Increasing female political representation by 10 percentage points increases the probability that an individual attains primary education in urban areas by 7 percentage points, which is approximately 9 percent of the total probability that an individual obtains primary education in an urban area. By contrast, female representation does not have an effect on individuals living in rural areas of the district, or on the sample as a whole.
Female politicians also encourage school attendance and discourage dropouts in urban areas. They have a positive impact on the fraction of villages that have primary schools, particularly in those districts with a higher urban population.