Oil, Islam, Women, and Geography: A Comment on Ross (2008)


Groh, Matthew. 2012. “Oil, Islam, Women, and Geography: A Comment on Ross (2008).” Quarterly Journal of Political Science 7 (1): 69–87. doi:10.1561/100.00011036.

Author: Matthew Groh


In ‘‘Oil, Islam, and Women,’’ Michael Ross (2008) develops a gendered Dutch Disease theory, which points to oil wealth as a potential explanation for the slow progress towards gender equality in the Middle East. He then presents empirical analysis in support of this theory and concludes that ‘‘women in the Middle East are underrepresented in the workforce and in government because of oil — not Islam’’ (p. 107). This brief comment re-examines Ross’s data and finds that they do not justify his conclusion: upon closer examination, his data do not provide evidence that oil rents causally affect female labor force participation rates via the gendered Dutch Disease. We argue that, in fact, his data are as or more consistent with Islam playing an important role in explaining the lagging female labor force participation rates than they are with oil playing an important role.


Groh and Rothschild’s article is a response to Michael Ross’s article, “Oil, Islam, and Women,” where he developed a “gendered Dutch Disease theory, which points to oil wealth as a potential explanation for the slow progress towards gender equality in the Middle East” (Groh and Rothschild, 2012, p. 69). They re-examine his data (the two main regression tests that form the basis for his article), and argue that his data ill supports his conclusion and actually illustrates that Islam is a larger contributor to gender inequality.

“Our critique of his empirical evidence is two-fold… the significant coefficient on Oil Rents in Ross’s between regressions appear to be driven entirely by inter-regional differences omitted from his empirical analysis… Second, we argue that Ross’s time-series regressions are simply not well suited to test his hypothesis that oil perpetuates patriarchy: they exploit short-run intra-country variation to identify what is, at heart, a longer run inter-country mechanism” (p. 71).

“A closer analysis of Ross’s between data and regressions therefore lead us to reach a conclusion nearly opposite to his: we find little evidence that oil matter, per se, in driving female labor force participation and some mild evidence that Islam does” (p. 75). 


Topics: Economies, Economic Inequality, Extractive Industries, Gender, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Livelihoods, Rights, Women's Rights Regions: MENA, Asia, Middle East

Year: 2012

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