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Racial Differences in the Gender Gap in Political Participation in the American South, 1952-2004


The integration of women and African Americans into the politically active southern electorate in the 1960s and the 1970s was a turning point in the rise of the "New South" and essential to the establishment of a democratic political process in the region. Whereas there are numerous studies of the reenfranchisement of African Americans in the South in the literature, temporal changes in the gender gap in southern political participation have received less attention. Gender inequality in voting has historically been greatest in the South and was more resistant to change over time. This study is the first to examine the intersection of gender and racial inequality in political participation in the South over a period spanning several decades. Building on previous theories of political participation, including the civic voluntarism model and the strategic mobilization perspective, we develop and test a conceptual model based on the interplay between individual characteristics and the broader institutional context. Using data from the American National Election Studies, we examine racial differences in the gender gap in southern political participation over time using hierarchical age-period-cohort analysis. We conclude with a discussion of the theoretical implications for the study of gender and racial inequality in political participation.