Mecca or Oil? Why Arab States Lag in Gender Equality


Norris, Pippa. 2011. “Mecca or Oil? Why Arab States Lag in Gender Equality.” Paper presented at the Global Cultural Changes Conference, Irvine, CA, March 11. 

Author: Pippa Norris



Why do Arab states lag behind the rest of the world in gender equality? Part I develops the theoretical debate. It first describes 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. As an alternative, it presents a cultural theories suggesting that religious traditions shape attitudes towards gender equality, and in turn these egalitarian attitudes influence the supply and demand process of political recruitment. Part II outlines the multilevel models, survey data and research design used to test the empirical evidence for these theories. Part III compares the impact of oil rents and religious traditions on egalitarian attitudes. Part IV then analyzes the impact of oil rents and cultural attitudes on the proportion of women in legislative and ministerial office. The conclusion summarizes the main findings and considers their implications.

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

Year: 2011

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