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Date Presented:Sep 2, 2004
We examine new survey data on attitudes toward international trade showing that women are significantly less likely than men to support increasing trade with foreign nations. This gender gap remains large even when controlling for a broad range of socio-economic characteristics among survey respondents, including occupational, skill, and industry-of-employment differences that feature in standard political-economy models of individuals’ trade policy preferences. Measures of the particular labor-market risks and costs associated with maternity do not appear to be related at all to the gender gap in trade preferences. We also do not find any strong evidence that gender differences in non-material values or along ideological dimensions have any affect on attitudes toward trade. The data do clearly reveal that the gender gap exists only among college-educated respondents and is larger among older cohorts. We argue that differences in educational experience—specifically, exposure to economic ideas at the college level—appear to be most plausible explanation for gender differences in attitudes toward trade. The findings suggest the possibilities of a renewed theoretical and empirical focus on the political roles played by ideas, not just among policymakers but also among the broader electorate. In practical terms, there are also implications for trade policy outcomes in different contexts and for how debates over globalization contribute to broader gender divisions in politics.