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“Status Threat and Opposition to Gender Equality Policies: Evidence from a Survey Experiment in South Korea” by Jeong Hyun Kim and Yesola Kweon

July 29, 2020 @ 9:00 am - 10:00 am

Authors: Jeong Hyun Kim (Louisiana State University) and Yesola Kweon (Utah State University)

Abstract: Despite the increasing interest and efforts to implement gender equality policies, many countries still encounter substantial levels of popular opposition and backlash against these policies. In this project, we explore the psychological determinants explaining this popular opposition to gender equality policies, with a focus on attitudes towards legislative gender quotas. We develop a theoretical framework linking men’s perceived status threat to their attitudes toward gender equality policies. First, we expect that men’s perceptions of a group-based status threat will trigger negative attitudes toward gender equality policies. Professional success by women in an increasingly constrained economy convey the impression that men no longer hold a dominant position in society. Prompted by the fear that equity policies will further erode their status, men have developed an aversion to gender quotas. Second, we expect that this status threat will be felt more strongly among the younger men who face a heightened degree of economic insecurity, and thereby express more intense opposition to gender equality policies. To test these arguments, we fielded an original survey experiment with a representative sample of citizens in South Korea, the site of intense popular hostility and social division over legislative gender quotas. Our findings demonstrate the salience of group-based status threats in the formation of negative attitudes toward legislative gender quotas among the younger men. This conclusion presents significant implications for the study of gender and politics and democratic representation. Further, by uncovering a source of public opposition to gender equality policies, this study informs policy makers of ways to mandate an inclusive policy without incurring social conflicts and instability.

Discussants: Amanda Clayton (Vanderbilt), Mala Htun (New Mexico), Rieko Kage (University of Tokyo), Cecilia Hyunjung Mo (UC, Berkeley), and Jiso Yoon (Korean Women's Development Institute).

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