Abstract

Recent studies of the gender gap in politics tend to focus on candidate choice rather than registration and turnout. This shift in focus away from gender inequality in political participation may be due to the finding in several studies of U.S. voting behavior since 1980 that differences in rates of registration and voting between men and women are modest and not statistically significant after controlling for traditional predictors of participation. However, we argue that researchers have overlooked the substantial gender gap in registration and voting in the South. While the gender gap in participation virtually disappeared outside the South by the 1950s, substantial gender differences in rates of voter registration and turnout remained in the South throughout the 1950s and 1960s. We test several explanations for the persistence of the gender gap in registration and voting in the South in the 1950s and 1960s and why it began to decline in the 1970s. These explanations include female labor force participation, resources, mobilization, and political engagement. Using American National Election Studies data for every presidential election year from 1956 to 1980, we employ heteroscedastic probit models within a cross-classified multilevel age-period-cohort framework to examine the declining gender gap in voter registration and turnout in the South. The results indicate that the decline of the gender gap is due to converging rates of political engagement and employment for women and men in the South during this time period. We conclude with a discussion of the theoretical implications.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-8034
Print ISSN
0145-5532
Pages
pp. 129-169
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-22
Open Access
No
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