The title is: Strength in Numbers: How Women’s Networks Close India's Political Gender Gap.
In India there persists a striking gender gap in political participation and representation, despite several decades of targeted policy interventions. Women's political participation is important not only on normative grounds of inclusion, but because we know that when women do participate, politics changes. I present a theoretical model of political behavior in rural India which argues that women's lack of political participation is the result of coordinated political behavior in the household. I then argue that women's access to economic networks of other women is one channel through which we can see a shift towards a gender-inclusive equilibrium, even when resource allocations, social norms, and household dynamics would suggest otherwise. I test this potential channel for women's political empowerment using a geographic regression discontinuity design with pair-matched villages to identify the impact of a program aimed at mobilizing women into small credit collectives. Original survey data from 7,770 women and men demonstrates that women who participated in this network intervention were signicantly more active in local politics - women's attendance at local public meetings is estimated to double. I show evidence of three possible mechanisms underlying this network effect: (1) increased capacity for collective action, (2) information transfers, and (3) civic skills and confidence. I confirm with qualitative interview data. I show income to be uncorrelated with political participation. These findings have implications for larger studies of political participation and importantly help to fill the gap in our understanding of gendered political behavior.