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Based on data from the 2011 Citizen Political Ambition Study - a national survey of nearly 4,000 "potential candidates" for all levels of office - we provide the first thorough analysis of the manner in which traditional family arrangements affect the initial decision to run for office. Our findings reveal that traditional family dynamics do not account for the gender gap in political ambition. Neither marital and parental status, nor the division of labor pertaining to household tasks and child care, predicts potential candidates' political ambition. This is not to downplay the fact that the gender gap in political ambition remains substantial and static or that traditional family roles affect whether women make it into the candidate eligibility pool in the first place. But it is to suggest that family arrangements are not a primary factor explaining why female potential candidates exhibit lower levels of political ambition than do men. Because women remain less likely than men to exhibit political ambition even in the face of stringent controls, the lack of explanatory power conferred by family arrangements highlights that other barriers to women's emergence as candidates clearly merit continued investigation.

Recommended Citation

Fox Richard L., and Lawless Jennifer L. “Reconciling Family Roles with Political Ambition: The New Normal for Women in Twenty-First Century U.S. Politics.” The Journal of Politics, vol. 76, no. 2, Feb. 2014, pp. 398–414.