Could a prior history of activism through national service engender political ambition in women? We explore this question by examining Teach For America (TFA), as TFA is a prominent national service program that exposes participants to important policy issues, namely education inequality, is an attractive program to high-achieving women, and employs a selection model that allows for causal inference. A fuzzy regression discontinuity approach utilizing an original survey of over 32,000 TFA applicants and TFA’s selection data for the 2007-2015 application cycles reveals that participation in national service causes women to be more politically ambitious. Effects are larger among women who have fewer financial and family responsibilities, and among women of color. These findings have broad implications for our understanding of what increases political ambition and identifies a population that may be more easily recruited to run for political office.
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