Political Behavior

, Volume 31, Issue 1, pp 117–136 | Cite as

Gender Differences in Political Knowledge: Distinguishing Characteristics-Based and Returns-Based Differences

Original Paper

Abstract

This study assesses whether gender-based differences in political knowledge primarily result from differences in observable attributes or from differences in returns for otherwise equivalent characteristics. It applies a statistical decomposition methodology to data obtained from the 1992–2004 American National Election Studies. There is a consistent 10-point gender gap in measured political knowledge, of which approximately one-third is due to gender-based differences in the characteristics that predict political knowledge, with the remaining two-thirds due to male–female differences in the returns to these characteristics. The methodology identifies the relative contribution of the predictors of political knowledge to each portion of the gap, and then uses this information to elucidate the underlying sources of the political knowledge gender gap and its prognosis. Education is the characteristic that most clearly enlarges the gap, with men receiving significantly larger returns to political knowledge from education than women. Group membership reduces the gap as women obtain gains in political knowledge from belonging to organizations that do not accrue to men. However, these gains are not sufficient to significantly reduce the gap.

Keywords

Gender Political knowledge Blinder–Oaxaca decomposition 

References

  1. Banducci, S., & Semetko, H. A., N.d. Gender and context: Influences on political interest in Europe. Institute for government studies, Universiteit Twente. Presented at the 2002 annual meeting of the midwest political science association, Chicago.Google Scholar
  2. Barabas, J. (2002). Another look at the measurement of political knowledge. Political Analysis, 10(2), 1–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Blinder, A. S. (1973). Wage discrimination: Reduced forma and structural estimates. The Journal of Human Resources, 8, 436–455.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brody, N. (1999). What is intelligence?. International Review of Psychiatry, 11(1), 19–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Burns, N., Schlozman, K. L., & Verba, S. (2001). The private roots of public action. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Burns, N., Kinder, D. R., Rosenstone, S. J., Sapiro, V., & The National Election Studies, American national election study. (2000). Pre and post election survey [computer file]. Conducted by University of Michigan, Center for political studies. 2nd ICPSR ed. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan, Center for Political Studies, and Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [producers], 1999. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan, Center for Political Studies, and Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2002.Google Scholar
  7. Campbell, A., Converse, P., Miller, W., & Stokes, D. (1960). The American voter. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  8. Delli, C., Michael, X., & Keeter, S. (1996). What Americans know about politics and why it matters. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Frazer, E., & Macdonald, K. (2003). Sex differences in political knowledge in Britain. Political Studies, 51, 67–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Galston, W. A. 2001. Political knowledge, political engagement, and civics education. Annual Review of Political Science, 4, 217–234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Galston, W. A. (2004). Civic education and political participation. PS: Political Science and Politics, 2, 263–265.Google Scholar
  12. Garand, J. C., Guynan, E., & Fournet, M. (2005). The gender gap and political knowledge: Men and women in national and state politics. In Paper Presented at the 2005 Annual Meeting of the Southern Political Science Association, New Orleans, LA.Google Scholar
  13. Gidengil, E., Goodyear-Grant, E., Nevitte, N., Blais, A., & Nadeau, R. (2003). Gender, Knowledge and Social Capital. In Paper Presented at the Conference on Gender and Social Capital, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB.Google Scholar
  14. Gilligan, C. (1982). Is there a different voice? Psychological theories and women’s development. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Glenn, N. D., & Grimes, M. (1968). Ageing, voting and political interest. American Sociological Review, 33, 563–575.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gujarati, D. N. (2003). Basic econometrics (4th ed.). Boston. McGraw Hill.Google Scholar
  17. Halpern, D. F., & LaMay, M. L. (2000). The smarter sex: A critical review of sex differences in intelligence. Educational Psychology Review, 12(2), 229–246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Inglehart, M. L. (1981). Political interest in western European women. Comparative Political Studies, 14, 299–336.Google Scholar
  19. Inglehart, R., & Norris, P. (2003). Rising tide: Gender equality and cultural change around the world. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Jamison, K. H. (2000). Everything you think you know about politics…and why you’re wrong. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  21. Jann, B. (2005). Standard errors for the Blinder–Oaxaca decomposition. In Presented at the 3rd German Stata Users Group Meeting, Berlin, Germany.Google Scholar
  22. Jennings, M. K. (1996). Political knowledge over time and across generations. The Public Opinion Quarterly, 60(2), 228–252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Jennings, M. K., & Niemi, R. G. (1974). The political character of adolescence. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Jennings, M. K., & Niemi, R. G. (1981). Generations and politics. Princeton, Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Kosman, B. A., Mayer, E., & Keysar, A. (2001). American religious identification survey. New York: The Graduate Center, City University of New York.Google Scholar
  26. Lipset, S. (1960). Political man: The social basis of politics. Garden City: Doubleday.Google Scholar
  27. Lupia, A. (2006). How elitism undermines the study of voter competence. Critical Review, 18, 217–232.Google Scholar
  28. Luskin, R. C. (1987). Measuring political sophistication. American Journal of Political Science, 31, 856–899.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Luskin, R. C. (1990). Explaining political sophistication. Political Behavior.Google Scholar
  30. Luskin, R. C., & Bullock J. (2004). Re(:)Measuring political sophistication. In Presented at the Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, Chicago.Google Scholar
  31. Luskin, R. C., & Bullock J. (2005). Don’t know means don’t know. In Presented at the Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, Chicago.Google Scholar
  32. Luskin, R. C., & Bullock J. (2006). Taking ‘Don’t Know’ for an answer: DK responses and the measurement of political knowledge. University of Texas at Austin. Working Paper.Google Scholar
  33. McClurg, S. (2006). The electoral relevance of political talk: Examining disagreement and expertise effects in social networks on political participation. American Journal of Political Science, 50(3), 737–754.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. McPherson, J. M., & Smith-Lovin, L. (1982). Women and weak ties: Differences by sex in the size of voluntary organizations. American Journal of Sociology, 87, 883–904.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Miller, W. E., Kinder, D. R., Rosenstone, S. J., & The National Election Studies, American National Election Study. (1992). Pre- and Post- Election Survey. [Enhanced with 1990 and 1991 Data] [computer file]. Conducted by University of Michigan, Center for Political Studies. 2nd ICPSR ed. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan, Center for Political Studies, and Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [producers], 1999. Ann Arbor, MI; University of Michigan, Center for Political Studies, and Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 1999.Google Scholar
  36. Mondak, J. J. (2001). Developing valid knowledge scales. American Journal of Political Science, 45, 224–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Mondak, J. J., & Anderson, M. R. (2004). The knowledge gap: A reexamination of gender-based differences in political knowledge. The Journal of Politics, 66, 492–512.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Nakao, K., & Judith, T. (1990). Computing 1989 prestige scores. Chicago: NORC. GSS Methodological Report No. 70.Google Scholar
  39. National Center for Education Statistics, United States Department of Education. (2005). Trends in Educational Equity of Girls and Women: 2004. NCES Report 2005–016.Google Scholar
  40. Newmark, D. (1988). Employers’ discriminatory behavior and estimation of wage discrimination. The Journal of Human Resources, 23, 279–295.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Niemi, R. G., & Junn, J. (1998). Civic education: What makes students learn. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  42. Oaxaca, R. (1973). Male-female wage differentials in urban labor markets. International Economic Review, 14, 693–709.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Popkin, S., Gorman, J. W., Phillips, C., & Smith, J. A. (1976). What have you done for me lately? Toward an investment theory of voting. American Political Science Review, 70, 779–805.Google Scholar
  44. Prior, M., & Lupia, A. (2006). What citizens know depends on how your ask them: Political knowledge and political learning skills. Working Paper, Princeton University.Google Scholar
  45. Putnam, R. D. (2000). Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American community. New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  46. Randall, V. (1987). Women and politics: An international perspective. New York: St. Martin’s Press.Google Scholar
  47. Rosenstone, S. J., Kinder D. R., Miller W. E., & The National Election Studies, American National Election Study. (1996). Pre- and Post- Election Survey. [computer file]. ICPSR06986-v5. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan, Center for Political Studies, and Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [producers], 2003. Ann Arbor, MI; University of Michigan, Center for Political Studies, and Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2005.Google Scholar
  48. Trevor, M. C. (1999). Political socialization, party identification and the gender gap. Public Opinion Quarterly, 63, 62–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. University of Michigan, Center for Political Studies, American National Election Study, American National Election Study. (2004) Pre- and Post-Election Survey [computer file]. ICPSR04245-v1. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan, Center for Political Studies, American National Election Study [producer], 2004. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2006.Google Scholar
  50. Verba, S., Burns, N., & Schlozman, K. L. (1997). Knowing and caring about politics: Gender and political engagement. Journal of Politics, 59, 1051–1072.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Zaller, J. (1990). Political awareness, elite opinion leadership and mass survey response. Social Cognition, 8, 125–153.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of MissouriColumbiaUSA

Personalised recommendations