Female congressional candidates have become as effective at raising campaign funds as their male counterparts, according to a study challenging widely held assumptions.

The Women's Campaign Research Fund found in a study released this week that female House candidates, on the average, raised as much money as men running in similar circumstances during 1982.

However, this does not mean that women raised as much as men they ran against. Women generally ran as challengers against entrenched incumbents. The study concluded that incumbents of both sexes raised more than their opponents by a ratio of 2-to-1.

But when female challengers were compared to male challengers, the study found virtual parity in fund-raising. The average female House candidate running against an incumbent, for example, raised $140,454 during the last election; the average male challenger, $141,532.

Women running in districts without an incumbent did even better, raising an average of $335,518, compared with $312,197 for men, the study said.

Among incumbents, women raised 88 percent as much as men, on average.

"The perception that women can't raise money is no longer true," said study director Jody Newman.

It has long been thought that an inability to raise money helped keep women from seeking and winning office.

Newman said the real problem may be the small number of women running for Congress and the kind of races they enter. She said women run as challengers "95 percent of the time" and "more frequently for seats that are harder to win."

The Women's Campaign Fund is a bipartisan group that raises money for female candidates.