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Does Care Experience Affect Policy Interests? Male Legislators, Parental Leave, and Political Priorities in Sweden

Journal article
Authors Helena Stensöta
Published in Politics & Gender
ISSN 1743-923X
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Political Science
Language en
Subject categories Political Science, Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)


A central argument in theories on women’s political interests has been that the sexual division of labor, inter alia, gives women greater experience of responsibility for the care of others, especially children, which in turn influences their political attitudes. However, the specifics of this claim have not been sufficiently examined in prior literature. By applying unique data on Swedish legislators’ subjective policy preferences and use of their parental leave over time, this article explores empirically whether MPs’ personal roles in reproduction affect their political preferences, regardless of their sex. The analysis reveals that men’s interest in social policy tends to increase after being on parental leave while in office, whereas women’s interest in social and family policy remains strong, regardless. This might indicate a care experience mechanism at work, pertinent also to men, but with a possibly shallower content. The analysis raises the question: are care issues, previously seen as women’s issues, now becoming human issues? It further contributes to the discussion on finding ways to measure gender in other ways than by using sex as proxy.

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