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The Political Economy of Gender: Explaining Cross-National Variation in the Gender Division of Labor and the Gender Voting Gap


  • We gratefully acknowledge insightful comments from Jim Alt, Kathy Bawn, Chuck Cameron, Lewis Kornhauser, Margarita Estevez-Abe, John Ferejohn, Geoffrey Garrett, Jonas Pontusson, Leonard Schoppa, David Soskice, Michael Thies, Justin Wolfers, and participants at the 102nd convention of the American Political Science Association, the NYU Law School Colloquium on Law and Economics, the Princeton Woodrow Wilson School and Politics Department, the Association for European Studies, and anonymous reviewers for AJPS. Erica Franklin, Nirmala Ravishankar, and Jun Saito provided able research assistance. Financial support from the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard, the Yale Center for International and Area Studies, and the Leitner Program in International and Comparative Political Economy made our research possible.

Torben Iversen is professor of government, Harvard University, Adolphus Busch Hall, 27 Kirkland St, Cambridge, MA 02138 ( Frances Rosenbluth is professor of political science, Yale University, 124 Prospect St # 304, New Haven, CT 06520-8301 (


Mainstream political economy has tended to treat the family as a unit when examining the distributional consequences of labor market institutions and of public policy. In a world with high divorce rates, we argue that this simplification is more likely to obscure than to instruct. We find that labor market opportunities for women, which vary systematically with the position of countries in the international division of labor and with the structure of the welfare state, affect women's bargaining power within the family and as a result, can explain much of the cross country variation in the gender division of labor as well as the gender gap in political preferences.