Female governors bring more attention to welfare policy than their male colleagues, according to research published Friday in State and Local Government Review.

"Consistent with much of the research on the influence of gender on the behavior of legislators, gender appears to affect the policy priorities of governors," Brianne Heidbreder of Kansas State University and Katherine Felix Scheurer of the University of North Dakota, the authors of the study, wrote. "Our research tentatively suggests that gender matters in terms of formulating gubernatorial agendas."

After investigating 131 state of the state speeches between the years of 2006 and 2008, the researchers found that female governors devoted roughly twice as much time to discussing welfare policies. Republican female governors talked the most about welfare policies.

The study did not investigate the actual content of the state of the state speeches, such as whether the governors spoke in support or opposition to public welfare programs. Factors such as poverty and the elderly population of the state were also linked to the amount of time devoted to discussing welfare policies.

Previous research has found that women are more supportive of welfare programs than men in general. The gender gap is reflected in state legislatures, where female lawmakers are more likely to vote in support of public welfare programs.

The observed difference between men and women has been attributed to socialization, Heidbreder and Scheurer noted in their study.

"Scholars suggest that the female socialization experience emphasizes a connection and responsibility to others, while the male socialization experience focuses on autonomy and independence."

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[Image via Mary Austin, Creative Commons licensed]