Let’s Work Together: Bill Success via Women’s Cosponsorship in U.S. State Legislatures

AuthorMirya R. Holman,Anna Mahoney,Emma Hurler
Published date01 September 2022
Date01 September 2022
Subject MatterArticles
Political Research Quarterly
© 2021 University of Utah
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/10659129211020123
Most pieces of legislation introduced in state legislatures
fail: they rarely reach the stage of a floor vote and even
fewer are signed into law (Krutz 2005). One important
marker of bill success is the characteristics of the legisla-
tion’s cosponsors (Bratton and Rouse 2011; Hibbing
1991; Kirkland 2011; Swers 2002). Not all legislators are
equally likely or able to sponsor “winning” legislation
(Atkinson and Windett 2019; O’Brien 2015; Schiller
1995; Senk 2020). Representatives with access to politi-
cal power within the institution, those with connections to
other legislators, and those in political party leadership all
increase the likelihood that a representative’s cosponsor-
ship of legislation will be associated with bill success.
Despite their marginalization and exclusion from
many of the sources of power that might lead to bill suc-
cess (Mahoney 2018; Osborn 2012; Thomsen and King
2020), women in legislative office are effective lawmak-
ers (Homola 2021). Women in the U.S. Congress intro-
duce and pass bills, serve constituent interests, and bring
incentives to their home districts all at higher rates than
their male counterparts (Anzia and Berry 2011; Lazarus
and Steigerwalt 2018; Lowande, Ritchie, and Lauterbach
2019; Thomsen and Sanders 2020; Volden, Wiseman, and
Wittmer 2013). Women’s overperformance results from
the disadvantages they face when seeking election and
reelection (Bauer 2020a, 2020b). For example, women
must be generally higher quality candidates to be elected
in the first place (Anzia and Berry 2011; Fulton and
Dhima 2020) and constituents hold women incumbents
to higher standards for reelection, motivating women
to overperform when seeking reelection (Costa 2020;
Lazarus and Steigerwalt 2018).
We argue that one mechanism by which women over-
come marginalization and gendered expectations of over-
performance is bill success from cosponsoring legislation
with other women. We argue that cosponsorship, which is
generally associated with higher bill quality and increased
bill success (Barnes 2016; Eatough, Preece, and Barber
2020; Gutmann and Thompson 2012; Kirkland 2011),
represents a key measure of women’s collaboration with
each other. Because of their exclusion from traditional
forms of power in political bodies (Barnes 2016; Jenkins
2007; Senk 2020) and gendered socialization patterns
(Schneider and Bos 2019), women legislators’ rate of col-
laboration is often higher than men’s rate of collaboration
20123PRQXXX10.1177/10659129211020123Political Research QuarterlyHolman et al.
1Tulane University, New Orleans, LA, USA
2Georgetown University, Washington, DC, USA
Corresponding Author:
Mirya R. Holman, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118, USA.
Email: mholman@tulane.edu
Let’s Work Together: Bill Success via
Women’s Cosponsorship in U.S.
State Legislatures
Mirya R. Holman1, Anna Mahoney1, and Emma Hurler2
Not all pieces of legislation introduced for consideration are equally likely to be successful. The characteristics
of legislation’s cosponsors can influence bill passage rates. Despite facing marginalization in legislative bodies and
more electoral vulnerability, women are effective lawmakers. We argue that one way by which women overcome
marginalization and gendered expectations of performance is bill success from legislation cosponsored with other
women. Testing this expectation on bills (140,000+) introduced in U.S. state legislatures in forty states in 2015, we
find increased bill success from women’s cosponsorship with each other and women from the other party. Using
variation in the share of women in legislative chambers and in legislative leadership, we find evidence to suggest that
women’s success emerges both from marginalization and gendered opportunities.
legislatures, bill success, collaboration, cosponsorship, women in politics, marginalization
2022, Vol. 75(3) 676–690

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