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Why Do Arab States Lag the World in Gender Equality?

Pippa Norris

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS); University of Sydney

June 26, 2009

HKS Working Paper No. RWP09-020

Why do Arab states lag behind the rest of the world in gender equality? Social structural, cultural, and institutional accounts offer alternative perspectives. This study critiques the "petroleum patriarchy" thesis, presented in Michael Ross’s “Oil, Islam and Women” (2008), which claims that the structure of oil-rich economies directly limit the role of women in the paid workforce and thus also (indirectly) restrict women’s representation in parliament. In particular, Part I raises questions about the empirical evidence used by Ross, especially the selection of case-studies, the specification of the econometric models, and the lack of direct evidence for cultural values. Part II develops multilevel models demonstrating that religious traditions have a greater influence on attitudes towards gender equality and sexual liberalization than either labor force participation or oil rents. Part III then shows the impact of these cultural attitudes on the proportion of women in legislative and ministerial office. The conclusion summarizes the main findings and considers their implications.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 27

Keywords: Gender equality, women’s representation, cultural values, religion

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Date posted: September 18, 2009  

Suggested Citation

Norris, Pippa, Why Do Arab States Lag the World in Gender Equality? (June 26, 2009). HKS Working Paper No. RWP09-020. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1474820 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1474820

Contact Information

Pippa Norris (Contact Author)
Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )
79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-495-1475 (Phone)
617-496-2850 (Fax)
University of Sydney ( email )
University of Sydney
Sydney, NC NSW 2006
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