“Women’s Equality in sub-Saharan Africa: The Influence of Religion on Views Towards Women in Mixed Muslim-Christian Countries," Under Review (with Kristin Michelitch)
This project speaks to a large literature that claims Islam has a directly negative impact of women’s prospects in public and private life. To date, this scholarship draws most insight from homogeneously Muslim countries in the Middle East and North Africa. Problematically, many of these countries have low levels of development and high inequality and unemployment, country-level factors that are also associated with low levels of female empowerment. We take this puzzle to sub-Saharan Africa, which has many mixed Christian-Muslim countries. Using a novel matching technique and individual-level survey data, we explore the impact of Islam on gender conservative attitudes by comparing otherwise similar Christian and Muslim individuals living in the same or nearby regions of their country in order to isolate the direct impact of Islam on gender attitudes. We find the effect of Islam to differ dramatically—in some countries, associated with anti-women attitudes, while in others equitable or pro-women attitudes.
“Attitudes towards Female Political Representation and How Performance Impacts Attitude Change,” Working Paper (with Kristin Michelitch)
Using survey data collected in Tanzania, this paper tests a number of socio-economic, religious, and political reasons why citizens may believe that males make better political leaders than women. It addresses head-on one way gender quotas might alter such views—that increasing women’s experience as legislators shows others their leadership qualities and consequently can change attitudes towards women in public and private realms. Using publicly available data on Tanzanian legislative sessions from 2005-2010, we implement a survey experiment where respondents are assigned to receive a report about women’s participation on the Parliament floor—either framed as equal to men’s participation or unequal (lower) and assess the impact of this information on willingness to vote for female MPs. Recognizing that public opinion leaders like party elites and religious leaders often employ such objective information and may present it to further personal goals, we assigned some respondents to receive reports with real-life (true) endorsement from figures of the respondent’s religion—either Christian or Muslim—or incumbent or opposition party leaders. Our paper finds that when religious and political leaders endorse equitable messages about women’s performance it increases willingness to vote for women and support for expanding their public and household rights.