, 23 tweets, 8 min read Read on Twitter
”How cities erode gender inequalities: a new theory & evidence from Cambodia”!

This is the most important paper I’ve ever written, the culmination of a decade’s work on social norms, & it’s just been accepted by Gender & Society!!

This is the 3rd (maybe 4th?) paper I’ve submitted to Gender & Society!!

All rejected!! 😫

But I kept on trying... 🙇‍♀️

Persevering!! 🐘

And I was especially keen for this paper to be accepted there, hopefully encouraging more studies in this field! 😊🙌🏞🏙
Here's the thing..

Studies of social change typically look at individual- or country-level characteristics

This omits the #places we live in.

In subnational comparisons, we see faster social change in cities.


And what does it tell us about the drivers of social change?
Much research suggests female employment -> support for gender equality.

Gender inequalities are largest, and slowest to close, in rural areas.

So could more female employment in rural areas -> more support for equality?
How can we investigate this?

What we really need, perhaps, is a labour demand shock in rural areas.

A big spike in female employment!

Then we can see if this shifts gender relations.

So how might we create/ find that?
What about Cambodia?!

As labour costs rise in China, garment manufacturing has moved to neighbouring countries: Cambodia, & its cheap rural regions

Mostly employing women!

Ta da!

The perrrfect place to explore if rising rural female employment -> gender equality? 🤔
"But hold up", you say.

"That's poorly paid, low status work, ofc it wont erode inequality".

So besides doing research in villages, I also did research in the city, to see how the impact of garment work was mediated by rural/urban context. 🏙️

Comparative rural-urban research!
"But migration is selective!", you object. "Maybe more liberal people go to cities?"

Certainly possible!

So let's interview rural-urban migrants, and listen to their life history narratives, about how their beliefs have changed through migrating to the city!
So I did comparative rural-urban research:

Lived in the village & the city.

Interviewed long-term urban & rural residents

As well as circular & permanent migrants.

Would love to see others use this methodology, to explore the causes of #subnational variation!
This is actually my 2nd study doing rural-urban qualitative research.

1st trialed in #Zambia: lived in the city for a year, & 4 months in rural areas

After that study, I anticipated that more rural female employment would close gender inequalities

So the whole point of the Cambodia study was to test my earlier hypothesis from Zambia.

I chose Cambodia *BECAUSE* of this labor demand shock

I wanted to see if I was right!

But was I?

I was not correct!

Mass female employment is NOT enough to erode gender inequalities

Something else is happening in cities:


Mixing with diverse others, sharing ideas, seeing alternatives, questioning established practices, & bitching about the patriarchy!!
So whereas gender theorists often suggest that rising female #employment has catalysed a shift in gender beliefs,

My comparative work highlights an additional important process:


Gathering together, reflecting on unfair practices, supporting each other!
So, I suggest that cities catalyse 3 key process:

1) Raising the opportunity cost of the male breadwinner model 💰

2) Resulting exposure to women in socially valued roles 👮‍♀️👩‍🎓👩‍💼

3) Association! 🗣️🤨🤔

And these 3 processes may be key to gender equality more broadly!
"But wait a mojito", you say.

"That's just Cambodia & Zambia".

"No external validity"

So that's why I then tried *really* hard to get funds for a Ugandan sociologist to come to Britain, to do a comparative rural-urban study of gender inequality here!!

Are the same processes at work?



Though I maintain it would have been absolutely epic!
So I don't claim external validity!

And would absafruitly😍 for others to investigate the causes of subnational differences elsewhere!

Then reflect on what this tells us about the drivers of social change!

I have some ideas on how YOU might do that,

It's a new, open field!!
Anywayyys, sorry for such a lonnng thread!!

But I think this topic is hugely revealing yet wildly under-explored

As you can see, I really do NOT mind being proven wrong!

So if you're interested, slide into my DMs, & let's chat about the causes of subnational variation!!

And this isn't just a question for gender!

We can also use comparative qualitative work to understand the causes of subnational variation in support for:

- immigration
- LGBT rights
- racial equality
- accountability

All these are often more supported in cities.

Due to the density, diversity, interconnectedness of cities,

you’re more likely to see MANY women demonstrating equal competence in socially valued roles

& discuss this with others

So become emboldened to experiment more, to transgress, to push back, to disrupt inequalities!
Similar processes *could* operate for politics:

In interconnected, heterogeneous, densely populated cities,

You’re more likely to see successful strikes, protests

And collectively critique established practices.

So this *may* explain higher demands for accountability in 🌃
Why do #cities erode inequalities?

And what does this tell us about the drivers of #socialchange?

Curious, but busy?

The wonderful Salimah Samji @HarvardCID and I recorded a #podcast just for you. 😊

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