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The Limited Impact of Reference Groups’ Symbolic Gender Representation on Willingness to Coproduce

Empirical studies yield inconclusive findings indicating that meaningful effects of symbolic gender representation in coproduction contexts are limited if citizens face high levels of uncertainty. This article discusses the impact of symbolic gender representation on the willingness of citizens to coproduce.

Martin Sievert
05 February 2023
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This article combines symbolic representation with signaling theory, suggesting that the representativeness of central reference groups might reduce uncertainty. The theoretical framework suggests that the representation of supervisors and existing coproducers might positively affect citizens’ willingness to coproduce. Contrary to the theoretical expectations, the empirical results from two preregistered factorial survey experiments indicate that the symbolic gender representation of these reference groups has a limited impact. Only a balanced representation of coproducers exhibits a positive treatment effect on citizens’ willingness to coproduce. The results oppose central arguments in the representative bureaucracy literature. At least for gender categories, symbolic representation is less important than expected.

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