Examining Gender Inequality and Armed Conflict at the Subnational Level

Journal article

Olsson, Louise & Erika Forsberg (2021) Examining Gender Inequality and Armed Conflict at the Subnational Level, Journal of Global Security Studies. DOI: 10.1093/jogss/ogaa023.

Read the article here (Open Access)

A growing body of quantitative research points to a robust relationship between gender inequality and armed conflict. In order to progress our understanding of this relationship, we make two contributions. First, we identify three potential explanations as to why gender inequality can be associated with conflict—gender inequality norms, societal capacity, and gendered socioeconomic development—and suggest an empirical strategy to gauge the explanatory leverage of each explanation. Second, we offer a more nuanced treatment of the dependent variable at the subnational level, moving beyond a dichotomized view of armed conflict to accounting for both its level and type. We test our hypotheses using district-level data on gender inequality and conflicts in India, covering the 1989–2014 period. Our findings show that the three explanations do not produce the same outcomes in the data. We argue that this speaks to the need to adjudicate between different forms of mechanisms that can connect gender inequality to conflict. Our results show support for women's status being important for understanding a society's capacity to handle conflict nonviolently. On the negative side, gendered socioeconomic developments resulting in a male surplus create conditions conducive for armed conflict, particularly in urban areas. A more surprising finding is that the gender inequality norm, in and of itself, does not appear to have a strong effect on the risk of armed conflict. This does not mean that we can disregard the explanation, but it underlines that there can be inherent problems with this commonly used argument.

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