GPS Presents Professor Sarah Bush (Yale University) - "Rewarding Women’s Rights in Dictatorships"

December 2, 2022 - 10:00am to 11:30am


How do international audiences perceive, and respond to, gender equality reforms in autocracies? For autocrats, the post-Cold War rewards associated with democracy create incentives to make reforms that will be viewed as democratic but not threaten their political survival. We theorize women's rights as one such policy area, contrasting it with more politically costly reforms to electoral competition. A conjoint experiment in a survey of development and democracy promotion professionals demonstrates how autocracies enhance their reputations and prospects for foreign aid using this strategy. A follow-up survey of the American public and in-depth elite interviews replicate and contextualize the findings. While electoral reforms significantly improve perceived democracy and support for aid, increasing women's economic rights is also highly effective. Gender quotas exhibit a significant (though smaller) effect on perceived democracy. The findings indicate that relevant international elites espouse a broad, egalitarian conception of democracy, and that autocrats accordingly enjoy leeway in how to burnish their reputations

Location and Address

3431 WW Posvar Hall