Why Women Mobilize: Dissecting and Dismantling India’s Gender Gap in Political Participation
Prillaman, Soledad Artiz
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CitationPrillaman, Soledad Artiz. 2017. Why Women Mobilize: Dissecting and Dismantling India’s Gender Gap in Political Participation. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractIn India there persists a striking gender gap in political participation. Women's political participation is important not only on normative grounds of inclusion, but because we know that when women do participate, politics changes. Why does this gender gap in political participation persist and how do women become active political participants? When does gender become a unifying and politically salient identity? In short, when and why do women politically mobilize?
I develop a theoretical model of political behavior which sustains an equilibrium where men show up, speak up, and are represented in political institutions, but where women remain less present in political spaces and decision-making. I draw on theories of social networks and identity politics and argue that women's lack of political participation is the result of coordinated political behavior in the household. Women are constrained by limited social networks, and, thus, coordinate their political behavior with the household to maximize political gains. Household bargaining dynamics dictate that men act as the political agent of the household. I suggest that this political system is marked by patronage political networks and under-provision of public goods. I then argue that when women's social networks shift to include more women, often because of female-targeted social policies, gender as an identity can become politically salient and women's political participation increases. I further document how women's political inclusion can yield improved local governance and greater provision of public goods.
I empirically evaluate these arguments using original survey data from 7,700 women and men from the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. I descriptively document the gender-gap equilibrium and demonstrate that the household is the unit of political coordination. I then evaluate the importance of social networks for women's political empowerment by leveraging a natural experiment. I demonstrate that women who participated in this network intervention were significantly more active in local politics. I further show that an additional gender-oriented civics education program delivered within women's social networks additionally increases women's political participation. I provide evidence of three possible mechanisms underlying both the network and civics education effects: (1) political coordination within the network, (2) information transfers, and (3) the development of civic skills.
These arguments and findings bring together the importance of social coordination for individual and collective political participation and the intersectionality of identities to create an integrated explanation of the gender gap in political participation. In doing so, this dissertation starts to shed light on how systems of behavior fit into broader stories of governance and development and highlights the particular role of women's inclusion.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:41140420
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