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Women, Work, and Politics

Women, Work, and Politics: The Political Economy of Gender Inequality

Torben Iversen
Frances Rosenbluth
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 288
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1nq33z
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  • Book Info
    Women, Work, and Politics
    Book Description:

    Looking at women's power in the home, in the workplace, and in politics from a political economy perspective, Torben Iversen and Frances Rosenbluth demonstrate that equality is tied to demand for women's labor outside the home, which is a function of structural, political, and institutional conditions. They go on to explain several anomalies of modern gender politics: why women vote differently from men; why women are better represented in the workforce in the United States than in other countries but less well represented in politics; why men share more of the household work in some countries than in others; and why some countries have such low fertility rates.

    The first book to integrate the micro-level of families with the macro-level of national institutions,Women, Work, and Politicspresents an original and groundbreaking approach to gender inequality.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-15311-8
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. vii-xvi)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  5. 1 A POLITICAL ECONOMY APPROACH TO GENDER INEQUALITY
    (pp. 1-16)

    For thousands of years, in most of the world’s societies, women have had fewer life chances than men. Certainly they have been underrepresented in the ranks of the rich and powerful. But even among ordinary folk, women have been subordinated to their fathers and husbands, and sometimes to brothers and grown sons. Even in the twenty-first century, men still dominate, if to a lesser extent. Patriarchy is so much a part of life that for many people it is largely invisible. This book takes male dominance as a puzzle to be examined.

    Its sheer ubiquity among many different cultures and...

  6. 2 THE STRUCTURE OF PATRIARCHY: HOW BARGAINING POWER SHAPES SOCIAL NORMS AND POLITICAL ATTITUDES
    (pp. 17-54)

    Patriarchy—the dominance of males in social, economic, and political organization—characterizes much of human history. If Mr. Cleaver from the 1950s in America were to time-travel back to an ancient agricultural village, he would, after the initial shock, take comfort in the stereotypical roles of the male household head who rules over his wife and children. Even Mrs. Cleaver, in the subordinate role, would find her status in that ancient society familiar. Then as now, the variance in gender norms across societies remains within recognizable bounds.

    Patriarchy’s very universality has made it invisible to otherwise perceptive philosophers and social...

  7. 3 THE GENDER DIVISION OF LABOR, OR WHY WOMEN WORK DOUBLE SHIFTS
    (pp. 55-80)

    On average, women participate less in the labor market than men, whereas they assume the lion’s share of unpaid work in the household. Economists have traditionally explained this pattern as the outcome of a coordination game where a more or less complete division of labor is the efficient solution due to increasing returns to human capital: people get better and better at the tasks they undertake, so a division of labor makes sense.¹ Although the biological advantages of women specializing in household skills are slim in a modern economy, their gravitating toward household work may be reinforced by childhood socialization...

  8. 4 FERTILITY
    (pp. 81-109)

    As women have moved inexorably into the paid workforce over the past century, fertility rates have plummeted. Average OECD fertility dropped from 2.4 children per woman in 1970 to less than 1.7 in 2000, during which time the female labor force participation rate rose from 45 percent to more than 65 percent. Juxtaposing these figures against time on the x-axis produces the figure of a giant X, as shown in figure 4.1.

    One also finds this X in cross-sectional depictions of fertility and female labor force participation where countries are sorted on the x-axis by GDP or level of development....

  9. 5 POLITICAL PREFERENCES
    (pp. 110-133)

    Economic modes of production, by increasing or reducing the premium on a household sexual division of labor, have powerfully circumscribed women’s choices in historic time. In the highly interventionist politics of the modern world, however, an exclusive focus on economic structures is likely to miss a big part of the story. Government policies—particularly those that influence the demand for female labor—also have an enormous effect on women’s lives.

    The possibility of a gender gap in political preferences emerges when marriage contracting is incomplete and termination of the contract is an ever-present possibility. In this case spouses will have...

  10. 6 GENDER AND POLITICAL CAREERS: A COMPARATIVE LABOR MARKET ANALYSIS OF FEMALE POLITICAL REPRESENTATION
    (pp. 134-161)

    Females are strikingly underrepresented in the world’s legislatures, though the variation among rich democracies is enormous, ranging from 9 percent in Japan and 14 percent in the United States at the low end to parity in Sweden at the high end. These examples are illustrative of a pattern, for the prevailing wisdom is correct that proportional representation (PR) systems are friendlier to successful female candidacy than district systems. Indeed, in Japan, 6.3 percent of the parliamentarians elected from single-member districts are females, compared to 13.3 percent elected from party lists on proportional representation ballots. Although 13.3 percent is still low...

  11. 7 CONCLUSIONS
    (pp. 162-170)

    Women, given that they make up half of the human race, are a heterogeneous group of people with as much to divide as to unite them. It would be inappropriate to write a book about them at all if it were not for a striking similarity in social attitudes toward women’s roles throughout most of the world and over most of human history. A woman is to be a faithful wife and a good mother. Faithful husband and good father rank high on the list for men in most societies as well, but they come lower on the list for...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 171-184)
  13. REFERENCES
    (pp. 185-194)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 195-202)