Eitan Paul, University of Michigan
How can capture by male elites be overcome to expand the substantive representation of women’s interests? While pursuing institutional reforms to make policymaking more inclusive is a common approach, these interventions often do not meaningfully expand the participation or representation of women and other marginalized groups. To improve representation, several districts in Indonesia enacted regulations in 2016–19 requiring separate forums, called musyawarah inklusif, for women and other marginalized groups to submit proposals for village development plans and budgets. This paper uses original data from surveys, survey experiments, and village planning documents to evaluate the effects of this novel reform. Overall, the reforms succeed in amplifying the voices of female community leaders but fail to shift actual spending towards women’s priorities. The analysis shows that inclusive consultations increase the representation of women's preferences in non-binding village development plans. However, inclusive consultations do not shift spending priorities towards women's preferences in binding annual budgets. Moreover, improvements in female representation lead to development plans that more closely resemble the preferences of pre-existing female community leaders than the preferences of ordinary women in the village. A survey experiment with village heads confirms that village heads do not change their policy priorities in response to information about women's preferences. Collectively, the evidence suggests that political power and elite capture—not a lack of information and participation—can be the key obstacles to improving the substantive representation of ordinary women's interests.
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