Critical Mass Theory and Women's Political Representation

SL Childs, ML Krook

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

186 Citations (Scopus)


In studies of women's legislative behaviour, the concept of critical mass is widely used and, more recently, criticised as a tool for understanding the relationship between the percentage of female legislators and the passage of legislation beneficial to women as a group. In this research note, we revisit classic contributions by Rosabeth Moss Kanter and Drude Dahlerup and outline and discuss their assumptions regarding anticipated connections between numbers and outcomes. We find that later gender and politics scholars have often misconstrued their work, with crucial implications for subsequent research on relations between the descriptive and substantive representation of women. We argue that clarifying the theoretical origins of the critical mass concept is crucial for forging a more coherent and cumulative research agenda on women's political representation.
Translated title of the contributionCritical Mass Theory and Women's Political Representation
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)725 - 736
Number of pages12
JournalPolitical studies
Volume56 (3)
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2008

Bibliographical note

Publisher: Wiley Blackwell

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