Widows, Congressional Representation, and the (Ms.)Appropriation of a Name
32 Pages Posted: 7 Nov 2017
Date Written: November 5, 2017
For much of the 20th century, widowhood was the primary path for women into the U.S. Congress. However, little is understood on how widows’ gender, familial connections and name recognition widows acquire from their husbands may affect their political behavior. Drawing on insights from the literatures across American politics, comparative politics, and economics, we argue that widows in Congress will have an inherent name brand advantage, providing them more freedom to pursue their own policy agendas. Using a differences-in-differences analysis of legislative voting behavior from the 63rd to 104th Congresses, we provide evidence that widows are more liberal than their husbands and follow their own policy agendas. We also show that widows are more liberal than other women. Thus, our results indicate that widowhood embeds both the gender and the dynastic dimension of these legislators. Further evidence suggests that this difference is rooted in the name brand advantage that widows have compared to other women, highlighting the complementarity between these individuals’ dynastic identity and their gender identity.
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