'Palin Paradox': Male-Heavy Districts Elect Women
Congresswomen flourish in areas with skewed gender ratios
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 8, 2009 8:37 AM CDT
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin speaks to members of the Army's 4th Brigade Combat team 25th Infantry Division during a deployment ceremony in Anchorage, Alaska on Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2009.   (AP Photo/Al Grillo)
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(Newser) – Alaska is reliant on male-dominated industries like mining and fishing, and the state has 106 men for every 100 women—the most gender-skewed state in the country, where the overall ratio is 86:100. Yet Alaska is one of just five states with an elected female governor, and one of Alaska's senators is a woman as well. Statistics bear out this "Palin paradox," writes Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com: women are more likely to be elected in districts where the male-to-female ratio is higher.

Only 17% of the 535 House and Senate members are women, yet among the country's 25 most heavily male districts, more than a third have females representing them—among them Nancy Pelosi. While Democratic women tend to do better than Republican ones, the trend holds across race, income, and educational level. It's an "extremely counterintuitive" phenomenon with no obvious explanation; perhaps, Silver jokingly concludes, "a lack of female companionship triggers a yearning for it that is manifested in the way we vote."