Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The Long-Term Impact of Imperialism on Gender Equality: The Benefit of Being French
by Greif, Adi, Ph.D., Yale University, 2014, 379; 3582285
Abstract (Summary)

Does imperialism impact gender equality? I conduct the first worldwide test of the impact of imperialism on gender equality, analyze a regression discontinuity test comparing former colonial territories in Cameroon, and use newly compiled documents to compare levels of gender equality in Syria and Iraq. A country's former colonizer has a bigger effect on gender equality, as measured by female labor force participation, than prominent explanations that focus on oil wealth or religion. The results challenge the conventional wisdom that former British colonization leads to better long-term development outcomes.

Imperial powers influenced gender equality in the long run through selecting different types of local leaders. British influence was deleterious for gender equality because the British practice of indirect rule reinforced local leaders' control in return for the leaders' support of British material interests. Such leaders could use their autonomy to maintain low levels of gender equality or use "invented traditions" (Ranger 2010) to reduce gender equality. French colonial policy, on the other hand, led to regulating leaders more, so that they lacked the autonomy necessary to reduce gender equality. Colonial rule thus created states with different attitudes towards women, the influences of which are often still visible today.

Local leaders on average preferred to retain or gain control over women as potential sources of economic and political power. Controlling women's labor, especially on farms, was a source of agricultural wealth. Control of their children was not only a valuable economic asset, but also a source of manpower for violent conflicts. Local leaders also sometimes used women as tradable goods, such as by creating alliances through marriages.

Three complementary analyses test this theory. The first is a cross-national comparison of modern-day gender equality between former French versus former British territories. To address possible selection bias in the types of territory controlled by each empire, the second test is a regression discontinuity analysis of villages across the arbitrarily drawn former colonial border in Cameroon. The first two tests use modern-day data; the third test is a historical case study comparing changes in gender equality over time from the Ottoman era to the colonial era in Syria versus Iraq. Comparing these changes in Syria and Iraq is particularly useful because data on gender equality are available from these two similar places both before and after the rise in oil revenues on the Iraqi side.

I make use of a variety of modern-day and colonial-era data to conduct the tests. For the cross-national tests, I use a compilation of available modern-day data, as well as a unique proxy for control by local leaders. I use modern-day data for the Cameroon test from the randomly sampled, nationally representative Demographics and Health Survey, as supplemented by ethnographies, historical work, and national datasets. In the Syria and Iraq comparison, I use data compiled from League of Nations reports, the 1894 Ottoman census, and various French, English, and Arabic government reports. Using this variety of data, I aim to find support for the theory across multiple types of tests and geographic regions.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Rosenbluth, Frances McCall
Commitee:
School: Yale University
School Location: United States -- Connecticut
Source: DAI-A 76/07(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: African Studies, Middle Eastern Studies, Political science
Keywords: Cameroon, Gender studies, Iraq, Regression discontinuity, Syria, Women's studies
Publication Number: 3582285
ISBN: 9781321610710
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