Studying Oil, Islam, and Women as If Political Institutions Mattered


Kang, Alice. 2009. “Studying Oil, Islam, and Women as If Political Institutions Mattered.” Politics & Gender 5 (4): 560-568. doi:10.1017/S1743923X09990377.

Author: Alice Kang



"By asserting that oil, not Islam, hurts gender equality, Michael Ross (2008) has made an important contribution to the debate on whether Islam bodes ill for women (Fish 2002; Inglehart and Norris 2003; Spierings, Smits, and Verloo 2009). Ross suggests that oil production decreases the number of female workers in countries with occupational segregation. The more women are left out of the formal economy, the fewer opportunities and resources they have for becoming influential political constituencies. According to Ross, “[t]his leaves oil-producing states with atypically strong patriarchal cultures and political institutions” (p. 107). Employing the same set of countries and data used in Ross (2008), I show that the institution of gender quotas, which is omitted from his statistical analyses, offsets the effects of oil rents on women’s political representation. Gender quotas increase women’s representation in Muslim majority and non-Muslim majority countries and in countries that are oil rich and oil poor. That “petroleum perpetuates patriarchy” (120) is a tendency, not destiny." (Kang, 2009, p. 560)

“Political institutions may alter the incentive structure that encourages rent-seeking behavior in resource-abundant countries (Mehlum, Moene, and Torvik 2006; Robinson, Torvik, and Verdier 2006). In the absence of a quota system, leaders may be more likely to ignore the demands of the female electorate during an oil boom. When quotas are in place, leaders may cater more to women’s demands even during an oil boom. In an authoritarian state, leaders may disregard women’s demands when oil is plentiful, whereas leaders in a democratic state may seek out female voters by using oil revenues to provide jobs, education, and health care.” (p. 561)

“This essay finds, however, that gender quotas may offset the negative effect of oil rents on the presence of women in national parliaments.” (p. 566)

“What is the effect of oil on women’s mobilization and movement success?... What are the causal mechanisms by which political institutions mitigate the perverse effects of oil? Do institutions alter the economic aspects of the gendered resource curse (i.e., Dutch disease) or do institutions lessen the resource curse by changing the incentives that rent-seeking leaders face? To what extent are institutions endogenous to natural resources? Why do some oil-producing countries adopt gender quotas while others do not?... Do institutions also constrain the ways in which religion influences political outcomes for women?” (p. 566)

Topics: Economies, Extractive Industries, Gender, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Patriarchy, Gender Equality/Inequality, Governance, Quotas, Livelihoods, Political Participation, Religion, Rights, Women's Rights

Year: 2009

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