Objective: Although women comprise 50% of the population, females remain underrepresented in government. Inequitable female political representation, a form of structural sexism, may impact population health. Previous studies focused primarily on individual health behaviors and low- or middle-income countries. To date, no study has examined the association between female political representation and healthcare access and utilization, immediately policy-amenable outcomes, in the United States. Study design: This was a repeated cross-sectional study. Methods: This study uses 2013–2018 county-level data from the County Rankings. I performed multilevel analyses to determine the relationships between state-level female representation (% female state legislators) and two outcomes—the percentage of county-level population under age 65 years without health insurance (primary outcome) and the county-level preventable hospitalization rates (secondary outcome of interest). Potential confounders included county-level and state-level characteristics such as the unemployment rate. I also examined whether associations differed by political party control of the state legislature. Results: In the fully adjusted model, one standard deviation difference in female political representation was associated with a decrease of 0.22 percentage points in county-level uninsured (95% confidence interval = −0.32, −0.12). The association between female political representation and preventable hospitalization rate differed according to state political party in control, with a decrease found only among counties in democratic/split controlled states (−80.51, 95% confidence interval = −149.65, −11.38). Conclusions: The results suggest that policy intervention addressing the underrepresentation of women in government may help increase the proportion of uninsured and, under certain circumstances, decrease county-level unnecessary hospitalizations. However, further research is needed to better understand the role of political party control in modifying noted associations.
- Female representation
- Preventable hospitalization rate
- Structural sexism