Are women more likely to quit politics after losing their first race than men? Women’s first-time candidacies skyrocketed in the wake of the 2016 presidential election. Yet we have little sense of the long-term impact of this surge in women candidates on women’s representation writ large: Inexperienced candidates are more likely to lose, and women might be especially discouraged by a loss. This might make the benefits of such a surge in candidacies fleeting. Using a regression discontinuity design and data that feature 212,805 candidates across 22,473 jurisdictions between 1950 and 2018, we find that women who narrowly lose these elections are no more likely to quit politics than men who narrowly lose. Drawing on scholarship on women’s lower political ambition, we interpret these findings to mean that women’s decision-making differs from men’s at the point of entry into politics—not at the point of reentry.
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