Magazine article Americas Quarterly

The Gender Gap in Community Participation

Magazine article Americas Quarterly

The Gender Gap in Community Participation

Article excerpt

Political participation in local government, including at the community level, is essential to the stability of democracies. Equally necessary is participation by all the demographic groups that make up a community- sadly, not often the case in Latin America and the Caribbean (or other regions).

Data from the 2010 round of the AmericasBarometer surveys by the Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP) show that women tend to participate less than men in community activities- attempting to solve a neighborhood problem, for example, or attending meetings of community associations-in 19 of 24 countries in the region. The gap is biggest in the Dominican Republic, followed by Trinidad and Tobago and then Suriname, while no gap is present in Costa Rica, Uruguay or Panama. Only in Argentina and Chile do women tend to participate more than men.

What explains the gender gap in participation? An analysis using AmericasBarometer survey data shows that the disparity cannot be entirely explained by women's lower levels of education, interest in politics or extent of political knowledge- conventionally identified as the culprits. Even when women and men are equally matched in these areas, the disparity in community participation persists. …

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