Friends in Low Places? The Conditional Influence of Trade on the Status of Women

  • Jonathan M. PowellEmail author
  • Theresa M. Schroeder


Scholars of international relations have actively debated the consequences of globalization. Among this literature is the growing attention to the status of women. While scholars have largely treated globalization as either improving or degrading women’s rights, we point to a conditional relationship. In contrast to assuming that the influence of globalization is invariably “good” or “bad,” we suggest that the character of the norms that will be diffused and adopted is dependent on the domestic norms of those a state is “globalized with.” We offer two expectations. First, states that tend to trade more with democracies should see a domestic improvement in the status of women. Second, we expect women’s status to improve when states trade more heavily with other states with high levels of women’s rights. An analysis of 184 countries from 1981 to 2008 provides strong support for the theory. Total trade flows and trade dependence only have negative associations with women’s status when conducted disproportionately with states that are autocratic or have low levels of women’s status.


Globalization Trade Norm diffusion Women’s status 


  1. Afshar H, editor. Women and empowerment: the politics of development. Basingstoke UK: Macmillan; 1998.Google Scholar
  2. Afshar H, Barrientos S. Women, globalization, and fragmentation. In: Afshar H, Barrientos S, editors. Women, globalization and fragmentation in the developing world New York. New York: St. Martin’s Press; 1999. p. 1–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ai C, Norton E. Interaction terms in logit and probit models. Econ Lett. 2003;80:123–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Avdeyeva O. When do states comply with international treaties? Policies on violence against women in post-communist countries. Int Stud Q. 2007;51(4):877–900.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Barbieri K, Keshk O, Pollins B. Trading data: evaluating our assumptions and coding rules. Conflict Manag Peace Sci. 2009;26(5):471–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bayes J, Hawkesworth M, Kelly R. Globalization, democratization, and gender regimes. In: Bayes J, Hawkesworth M, Kelly R, editors. Gender, globalization, democratization. Oxford: Rowman and Littlefield; 2001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Beer C. Democracy and gender equality. Stud Comp Int Dev. 2009;44(3):212–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bergeron S. Political economy discourses of globalization and feminist politics. Signs. 2001;26(4):983–1005.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Boehmke F. Grinter: A stata utility for graphing the marginal effect of an interacted variable in regression models. 2006. Available:
  10. Brambor T, Clark W, Golder M. Understanding interaction models: improving empirical analyses. Polit Anal. 2006;14(1):63–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cao X, Prakash A. Trade competition and domestic pollution: a panel study, 1980–2003. Int Organ. 2010;64(3):481–503.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Caprioli M. Gendered conflict. J Peace Res. 2000;37:51–68.Google Scholar
  13. Caprioli M. Democracy and human rights versus women's security: a contradiction? Secur Dialogue. 2004;35(4):411–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Caprioli M, Boyer M. Gender, violence, and international crisis. J Confl Resolut. 2001;45(4):503–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Cheibub J, Gandhi J, Vreeland J. “Democracy and Dictatorship Revisited.” Public Choice. 2010;143(2–1):67–101.Google Scholar
  16. Cingranelli D, Richards D. The Cingranelli-Richards (CIRI) Human rights data project coding manual. <>. 2008.
  17. Cole W. Government respect for gendered rights: the effect of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women on women's rights outcomes. Int Stud Q. 2013;57(2):233–49.Google Scholar
  18. Dahl R. On democracy. New Haven: Yale University Press; 1998.Google Scholar
  19. Dahlerup D. From a Small to a large minority: women in Scandinavian politics. Scandinavian Political Studies. 1988;11(4):275–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Dhaka Tribune. Deadle Collapse: Rescue Ongoing. Dhaka Tribune. 25 April 2013. Online:
  21. Dollar D, Fisman R, Gatti R. Are women really the "fairer sex? Corruption and women in government. J Econ Behav Organ. 2001;46(4):423–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Donnelly J. Universal human rights in theory and practice. 3rd ed. Ithaca NY: Cornell University Press; 2013.Google Scholar
  23. Elkins Z, Simmons B. On waves, clusters, and diffusion: a conceptual framework. Ann Am Acad Pol Soc Sci. 2004;598(1):1–19.Google Scholar
  24. Elson D, Pearson R. The subordination of women and the internationalization of factory production. In: Visvanathan N, Duggan L, Nisonoff L, Wiegersma N, editors. The women, gender, and development reader. London: Zed Books; 1997.Google Scholar
  25. Fallon K, Swiss L, Viterna J. Resolving the democracy paradox: democratization and women's legislative representation in developing nations. Am Sociol Rev. 2012;77(3):380–408.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Garcia F. The global market and human rights: trading away the human rights principle. Brooklyn J Int Law. 1999;25(1):51–97.Google Scholar
  27. Gleditsch K. “Expanded trade and GDP data.” J Confl Resolut. 2002;46:712–24.Google Scholar
  28. Goodman R, Jinks D. How to influence states: socialization and international human rights law. Duke Law J. 2004;54(3):621–703.Google Scholar
  29. Gray M, Kittilson M, Sandholtz W. Women and globalization: a Study of 180 nations, 1975–2000. Int Organ. 2006;60(2):293–333.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Greenhill B. The company you keep: international socialization and the diffusion of human rights norms. Int Stud Q. 2010;54(1):127–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Greenhill B, Mosley L, Prakash A. Trade-bases diffusion of labor rights: a panel study, 1988–2002. Am Pol Sci Rev. 2009;103(4):669–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hafner-Burton E. Trading human rights: how preferential trade agreements influence government repression. Int Organ. 2005;59(3):593–629.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Iversen T, Rosenbluth F. Work and power: the connection between female labor force participation and female political representation. Annu Rev Pol Sci. 2008;11:479–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kabeer N. Globalization, labor standards, and women’s rights: dilemmas of collective (In) Action in an interdependent world. Fem Econ. 2004;10(1):3–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Kabeer N, Mahmud S. Globalization, gender, and poverty: Bangladeshi women workers in export and local markets. J Int Dev. 2004;16(1):93–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Kaufmann D. Challenges in the next stage of anti-corruption. New perspectives on combating corruption. 1998; 139–63.Google Scholar
  37. Keck M, Sikkink K. Activists beyond borders: advocacy networks in international politics. Ithaca: Cornell University Press; 1998.Google Scholar
  38. Kolodner E. Transnational corporations: impediments or catalysts of social development? Geneva: Occasional Paper No. 5, World Summit for Social Development, United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD); 1994.Google Scholar
  39. Krook M. “Reforming representation: the diffusion of candidate gender quotas worldwide.” Pol Gen. 2006;2(2006):303–27.Google Scholar
  40. Kunovich S, Paxton P. Pathways to power: the roles of political parties in women's national political representation. Am J Sociol. 2005;111(2):505–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Levitsky S, Way L. Competitive authoritarianism: hybrid regimes after the Cold War. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 2010.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Lim L. Capitalism, imperialism and patriarchy: the dilemma of third world women workers in multinational factories. In: Visvanathan N, Duggan L, Nisonoff L, Wiegersma N, editors. The women, gender, and development reader. Loundon: Zed Books; 1997.Google Scholar
  43. Linz J, Stepan A. Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press; 1996.Google Scholar
  44. Lovenduski J, Norris P. “Westminster Women: the Politics of Presence.” Pol Stud. (2003)51:84–102.Google Scholar
  45. Melander E. Gender equality and intrastate armed conflict. Int Stud Q. 2005;49(4):695–714.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Meyer W. Human rights and international political economy in third world nations: multinational corporations, foreign aid, and repression. Westport, CT: Praeger; 1998.Google Scholar
  47. Michael R. Consequences of the rise in female labor force participation rates: questions and probes. J Labor Econ. 1985;3(1):117–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Paxton P. Women in national legislatures: a cross-national analysis. Soc Sci Res. 1997;26(4):442–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Paxton P. Social capital and democracy: an interdependent relationship. Am Sociol Rev. 2002;67(2):254–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Paxton P, Kunovich S. Women's political representation: the importance of ideology. Soc Forces. 2003;82(1):87–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Richards D, Gelleny D. Women's status and economic globalization. Int Stud Q. 2007;51(4):855–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Ross M. Oil, Islam, and women. Am Pol Sci Rev. 2008;102(1):107–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Sassen S. Toward a feminist analytics of the global economy. Indiana J Glob Leg Stud. 1996;4(1):7–42.Google Scholar
  54. Schwindt-Bayer L. Still supermadres? Gender and the policy priorities of Latin American legislators. Am J Polit Sci. 2006;50(3):570–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Stockemer D. Women's parliamentary representation: are women more highly represented in (consolidated) democracies than in non-democracies? Contemp Pol. 2009;15(4):429–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Stockemer D, Byrne M. Women's representation around the world: the importance of women's participation in the workforce. Parliam Aff. 2012;65:802–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Sweeney S. Global economic transformations, national institutions, and women's rights: a cross-national comparative analysis. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Hilton Chicago and the Palmer House Hilton, Chicago, IL, September 2–5; 2004.Google Scholar
  58. Swers M. Are women more likely to vote for women's issue bills than their male colleagues? Legis Stud Q. 1998;23(3):435–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. True J, Mintrom M. Transnational networks and policy diffusion: the case of gender mainstreaming. Int Stud Q. 2001;45(1):27–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Vogel D. Trading up: consumer and environmental regulation in a global economy. Cambridge: Havard University Press; 1995.Google Scholar
  61. Zwingel S. How do norms travel? Theorizing international women’s rights in transnational perspective. Int Stud Q. 2012;56(1):115–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of Central FloridaOrlandoUSA
  2. 2.Department of Political ScienceRadford UniversityRadfordUSA

Personalised recommendations