Francesca Jensenius, Ph.D.

University of Oslo

Country: Norway

About Me:

I am an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Oslo and a Senior Research Fellow at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI), specializing in comparative politics, comparative political economy, and research methods, with a regional focus on South Asia. My main research interest is how institutional design and electoral dynamics affect different types of inequality. In the book Social Justice through Inclusion: The Consequences of Electoral Quotas in India (OUP 2017), I explored long-term effects of electoral quotas for the Scheduled Castes in India. In other projects I focus on the relationship between political institutions, electoral dynamics, and local-level development patterns in India, as well as on a how legal regimes and legal change across the world differentially affect women and other marginalized communities. See my website for more information about my publications, datasets, and working papers.

Research Interests

Comparative Political Institutions

Representation and Electoral Systems

Political Economy

Gender and Politics

Countries of Interest



Journal Articles:

(2019) Gender-Discriminatory Laws and Women’s Economic Agency, Social Politics

Tags: Development, Gender and Politics, Judicial Politics

Recent years have seen widespread reforms in women’s legal rights in many countries. In other places, restrictions on women’s autonomy remain entrenched. Using World Bank data on gender-discriminatory from 2014 and 2016, this paper explores cross-country patterns in the association between gender-discriminatory legislation and various indicators of women’s economic agency. We find that restrictions on legal capacity predict women’s asset ownership and labor force participation, while discrimination in wage work and parental leave are associated with the size and direction of wage gaps. These findings highlight the importance of conceptualizing and measuring legal rights and their potential effects as multidimensional.

(2018) The Benefits and Pitfalls of Google Scholar., PS Political Science & Politics

Google Scholar (GS) is an important tool that faculty, administrators, and external reviewers use to evaluate the scholarly impact of candidates for jobs, tenure, and promotion. This article highlights both the benefits of GS—including the reliability and consistency of its citation counts and its platform for disseminating scholarship and facilitating networking—and its pitfalls. GS has biases because citation is a social and political process that disadvantages certain groups, including women, younger scholars, scholars in smaller research communities, and scholars opting for risky and innovative work. GS counts also reflect practices of strategic citation that exacerbate existing hierarchies and inequalities. As a result, it is imperative that political scientists incorporate other data sources, especially independent scholarly judgment, when making decisions that are crucial for careers. External reviewers have a unique obligation to offer a reasoned, rigorous, and qualitative assessment of a scholar’s contributions and therefore should not use GS.

(2017) Studying Indian Politics with Large-scale Data: Indian Election Data 1961–Today, Studies in Indian Politics

Tags: Asian Politics, Elections, Election Administration, and Voting Behavior, Representation and Electoral Systems, Research Methods & Research Design, Development

There has been a data revolution in the study of Indian politics in recent years. Indian politics has always been a fascinating field, in comparative perspective and in its own right. Accounts of fieldwork in India have challenged and informed discussions about democracy in the developing world for decades. Since the 1990s, the National Election Studies conducted by Lokniti, CSDS, have enabled informed quantitative analyses of political patterns across the country. More recently, technological innovations and the increasing availability of online data sources have opened the door to new ways of studying Indian politics quantitatively. Scholars can now create and merge a wide range of large-scale datasets, making it possible to establish new empirical trends, fact check commonly held political narratives and test hypotheses developed in other democratic contexts. In this research note, we first describe some techniques and tools used for creating and merging large-scale datasets. Next, we introduce two datasets we have developed: constituency-level datasets of Indian State Elections and General Elections from 1961 until today. We describe the process of creating these datasets, the efforts involved in cleaning the data and how the data can be utilized. In conclusion, we offer some reflections on the limitations of over-relying on quantitative data in research on Indian politics. We hope to get more scholars and practitioners interested in using the publicly available datasets developed by ourselves and others, and to inspire students and scholars to invest in the quantitative skills needed to develop new quantitative datasets.

(2016) Competing Inequalities? On the Intersection of Gender and Ethnicity in Candidate Nominations in Indian Elections., Government and Opposition

Tags: Comparative Political Institutions, Gender and Politics, Representation and Electoral Systems, Race, Ethnicity and Politics, Development

Quotas for women and ethnic minorities are implemented to increase diversity in political institutions, but, as they usually target only one group at a time, they may end up increasing the inclusion of one under-represented group at the cost of another. Recent work has emphasized the institutional underpinnings of the variation in such outcomes. In this article I show how the intersectional effects of quotas may also vary within the same institutional context, as changes in the pressure to include excluded groups interact with the informal opportunity structures within political parties. Looking at the nomination of female candidates across India over time, I show that, as the efforts to include more women in politics intensified, much of the increase in female candidates occurred in constituencies reserved for ethnic minorities. This pattern may in part be the result of parties resisting changes to existing power hierarchies by nominating women at the cost of the least powerful male politicians, but can also be seen as evidence that minority quotas have created a political space that is more accessible to women.

(2015) Fragmentation and Decline in India’s State Assemblies: A review 1967-2007, Asian Survey

Tags: Asian Politics, Elections, Election Administration, and Voting Behavior, Legislative Politics, Comparative Political Institutions, Representation and Electoral Systems

Tracing activity in 15 Indian state assemblies 1967–2007, we find that overall legislative activity declined, but there was also considerable variation across states. States with large electoral constituencies and politically fragmented assemblies showed the worst performance, which may suggest a link between political fragmentation and institutional performance.

(2015) Development from Representation? A Study of Quotas for Scheduled Castes in India, American Economic Journal Applied Economics

Tags: Asian Politics, Comparative Political Institutions, Representation and Electoral Systems, Research Methods & Research Design, Race, Ethnicity and Politics

This paper estimates the constituency-level development effects of quotas for the Scheduled Castes (SCs) in India, using a unique dataset of development indicators for more than 3,100 state assembly constituencies in 15 Indian states in 1971 and 2001. Matching constituencies on pretreatment variables from 1971, I find that 30 years of quotas had no detectable constituency-level effect on overall development or redistribution to SCs. Interviews with politicians and civil servants in 2010 and 2011 suggest that these findings can be explained by the power of political parties and the electoral incentives created by the quota system.

(2015) Mired in Reservations: The Path-Dependent History of Electoral Quotas in India, Journal of Asian Studies

Tags: Asian Politics, Comparative Political Institutions, Representation and Electoral Systems, Development, Elections, Election Administration, and Voting Behavior

Since independence, India has had electoral quotas for Scheduled Castes (SCs, Dalits, “untouchables”). These quotas have been praised for empowering members of a deprived community, but have also been criticized for bringing to power SC politicians who are mere tools in the hands of the upper castes. Tracing the history of these quotas through four critical junctures, I show how a British attempt to strengthen their own control of India eventually resulted in one of the world’s most extensive quota systems for minorities. The quota system was in the end a compromise between several political goals, and was not strongly supported by anyone. Also, while the quotas were designed to integrate SC politicians into mainstream politics, there was a subtle and gradual shift in the debate about them, to being about development for the SC community as such. This created a disjuncture between the design of the quota system and the expectation of what it would achieve. The case of quotas in India illustrates how policy choices often result from long path-dependent processes, how policy makers struggle with trade-offs when trying to design institutions, and also the power of expectations in shaping the perceptions of the outcomes of those institutions.

Books Written:

(2017) Social Justice through Inclusion: The Consequences of Electoral Quotas in India, Oxford University Press

Tags: Comparative Political Institutions, Development, Research Methods & Research Design, Race, Ethnicity and Politics, Political Economy

Across the world, governments design and implement policies with the explicit goal of promoting social justice. But can such institutions change entrenched social norms? And what effects should we expect from differently designed policies? This book is an empirically rich study of one of the most extensive electoral quota systems in the world: the reserved seats for the Scheduled Castes (SCs, the former “untouchables”) in India’s legislative assemblies. Combining evidence from extensive quantitative datasets, archival work, and in-depth interviews with politicians, civil servants, activists, and voters across India, the book explores the long-term effects of electoral quotas for the political elite and the general population. It shows that the quotas for SCs have played an important role in improving social justice for SCs in some ways, primarily by weakening the status hierarchy associated with the caste system. The extent and nature of the gains in social justice have not, however, been what all advocates of these quotas had expected or hoped for. This is a study of India, but the findings and discussions have broader implications. Policies such as quotas are usually supported with arguments about various assumed positive long-term consequences. The nuanced discussions in this book shed light on the trade-offs inherent in how these policies are designed, and lays the groundwork for a comparative research agenda on the politics of inclusion.