Publication Date

April 2018

Advisor(s)

Logan Dancey

Major

Government

Language

English (United States)

Abstract

Women in the United States have made up a lower percentage of political donors and accounted for a lower percentage of total campaign dollars in every national election cycle for which contribution data is reported and publicly available. While a significant body of literature has addressed women?s under-involvement and underrepresentation in American politics, comparatively little research has been conducted on the gender gap in political giving. This thesis employs qualitative, empirical and experimental approaches to investigate why this gap has become a fixture in our political system, despite the impressive increases in women?s empowerment, political engagement and participation that have occurred over the 170 years. I begin by reviewing the political impacts of the three major waves of the 20th century feminist movement and the significant female political mobilization that has occurred in recent years as a result of Hillary Clinton?s presidential campaign, Donald Trump?s election, and the rise of the #MeToo movement. After analyzing data drawn largely from Federal Election Commission reports and American National Election Studies surveys, I find that women?s rates of educational attainment, employment, political engagement and political activity now rival or even surpass those of their male counterparts. However, further analysis shows that women are still significantly disadvantaged financially and less likely to be solicited for political donations than men, two possible explanations for why so little progress has been made in closing the gender gap in giving. Finally, I present the results of an experimental survey designed as a causal test of past explanations for women?s low propensity to make political donations. I find that women were just as, if not more, likely than men to contribute in the experimental setting. These results, considered alongside the increases in female contributions that have been galvanized in recent years by the current sociopolitical climate, paint a more optimistic picture of the future of women?s political giving.

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