"Women Leaders Improve Environmental Outcomes: Evidence from Crop Fires in India"
Effective climate action requires leaders that implement pro-environmental policies. Survey evidence suggests that women have a greater concern for the environment. Yet, whether these concerns translate to policy changes when women are elected to political office is an open question. Using a close-election regression discontinuity design, we find that the election of women legislators in India leads to a 13% decrease in fire incidents arising from crop residue burning. This is accompanied by a large and statistically significant decrease in air pollution for constituencies led by women, particularly black carbon, organic carbon, and SO2, all of which are precursors to PM2.5. These effects are predictably concentrated during the winter harvest and post-harvest months (October to April). In an original survey of 424 male and female village council leaders in India, we find evidence to suggest female leaders treat residue burning as a more serious issue, weighing its impacts on child health more highly than male leaders, and being more likely to be strongly in favor of regulation against burning. Female leaders are also more likely to implement alternative crop residue management policies.