Did Women’s Suffrage Change the Size and Scope of Government?

Did Women’s Suffrage Change the Size and Scope of Government? By John Lott.

Giving women the right to vote significantly changed American politics from the very beginning. Despite claims to the contrary, the gender gap is not something that has arisen since the 1970s.

Suffrage coincided with immediate increases in state government expenditures and revenue, and these effects continued growing as more women took advantage of the franchise. Similar changes occurred at the federal level as female suffrage led to more liberal voting records for the state’s U.S. House and Senate delegations. In the Senate, suffrage changed voting behavior by an amount equal to almost 20 percent of the difference between Republican and Democratic senators.

Suffrage also coincided with changes in the probability that prohibition would be enacted and changes in divorce laws.

More work remains to be done on why women vote so differently, but our initial work provides scant evidence that it is due to self-interest arising from their employment by government. The only evidence that we found indicated that the gender gap in part arises from women’s fear that they are being left to raise children on their own (Lott and Kenny 1997). If this result is true, the continued breakdown of the family and higher divorce rates imply growing political conflicts between the sexes.

It would appear that the women’s vote has a lot to do with the emergence of big government and welfare dependence.

Big government and the welfare state are now so big that mere working men — who are taxed heavily, by historic standards — find it difficult to compete economically with the state to be a woman’s provider. Yet another reason for the recent breakdown of families.