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Title: Gender Gaps in Political Participation in a Cross-National Perspective: The Gendered Effects of Political Institutions
Author: Beauregard, Katrine
Advisor: O'Neill, Brenda
Keywords: Political Science
Issue Date: 25-Apr-2014
Abstract: Gender differences in political participation have been a persistent phenomenon in multiple countries. On a variety of political activities, women are less likely than men to be involved. Multiple scholarly works have investigated explanations for these persistent gender gaps. Scholars have found that gender differences in political resources and psychological engagement play an important role in understanding participation gaps. Yet, gender differences in political participation have little been investigated in a cross-national perspective. Indeed, there is evidence indicating that gaps are not constant across countries, suggesting that it is possible for country-level factors to contribute to gender differences in political participation in addition to individual-level factors. This investigation tests for the possibility that political institutions, which vary across countries, contribute to an additional level of explanation for gender differences in political participation. I identify three political institutions that may have a gendered effect: the electoral system, party ideology, and women's representation and gender quotas. Findings demonstrate that all three aspects of political institutions tested in this analysis are associated with varying size of gender gaps in political participation. More specifically, first, it is found that more proportional electoral systems are associated with larger gender differences in political participation. Second, the presence of left ideologies in the party system is not enough to increase women's levels of political participation. It is only when political parties address women's interests in their platforms that gender gaps decrease. Finally, women's representation and gender quotas are found to affect gender gaps, but not always in the expected ways. Results show that both women's representation and gender quotas can influence men's behaviour more so than women's, leading to larger gender gaps in political participation. It is hypothesized that the gendered effects of political institutions occur since these institutions have an influence on the types and levels of political resources and orientations toward the political system needed to be involved in politics. Political participation occurs in an environment shaped by political institutions. Since men and women differ in the types and levels of resources and orientations they possess, political institutions will influence differently their participation.
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