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Sarra Demashkieh: On Work and Politics
Durham, NC - In thinking about why members of the North Carolina State Legislature might tend to sponsor certain types of bills, Sanford School of Public Policy graduating senior Sarra Demashkieh identified a category that she said is often overlooked in political discussions: occupation.
"Everyone talks about religion, race and gender," Demashkieh said. "What about occupation, which is a major self-identifier for a lot of people?"
In crafting her thesis, Demashkieh looked at the most recent occupation of North Carolina state legislators to analyze whether that job seemed to affect which bills the legislator chose to sponsor.
Demashkieh had four "female" categories for bills: "Education," "Children & Families," "Health Care" and "Aging." Her "male" categories were "Info-Tech," "Law & Crime," "Government Operations" and "Transportation." Bills in the category of "Energy and Environment" were "gender-neutral."
Occupations categorized as "female" included those in the fields of education, medicine, social work and elder care. "Male" occupations included those in the fields of law, business, engineering, science and farming. Her categories were drawn from previous research in the field of women's studies.
Using regression analysis to analyze the impact of occupation on bill sponsorship, Demashkieh found that legislators coming from "female" occupations were more likely to sponsor bills categorized as "female," regardless of their gender. She also found that legislators coming from "female" occupations tended to sponsor more bills in general than legislators coming from "male" occupations.
As Demashkieh puts it in her thesis, "... legislators coming from female professions behave like 'women' regardless of gender."
Demashkieh's research controlled for the characteristics of a legislator's district, including unemployment and education rates, average household income and the percentage of district residents living in poverty. While she found a statistically significant impact of "female" occupation on "female" bill sponsorship, Demashkieh did not find that a similar pattern held for legislators coming from "male" occupations.
Demashkieh credits Kristen Goss, her faculty adviser, with helping her navigate the challenges of her research and pressing her to continually refine her thesis.
"Professor Goss was really great at finding the gaps in my argument and telling me where I needed to do more statistical analysis and find more literature," Demashkieh said.
Following graduation, Demashkieh will move to Atlanta to work for Bain & Co., a management consulting firm.
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