World Politics

Research Article

The Political Economy of Women's Support for Fundamentalist Islam

Lisa Blaydes and Drew A. Linzera1a2*

a1 Stanford University, blaydes@stanford.edu

a2 Emory University, dlinzer@emory.edu

Abstract

Why do some Muslim women adopt fundamentalist Islamic value systems that promote gender-based inequalities while others do not? This article considers the economic determinants of fundamentalist beliefs in the Muslim world, as women look to either marriage or employment to achieve financial security. Using cross-national public opinion data from eighteen countries with significant Muslim populations, the authors apply a latent class model to characterize respondents according to their views on gender norms, political Islam, and personal religiosity. Among women, lack of economic opportunity is a stronger predictor of fundamentalist belief systems than socioeconomic class. Cross-nationally, fundamentalism among women is most prevalent in poor countries and in those with a large male-female wage gap. These findings have important implications for the promotion of women's rights, the rise of political Islam, and the development of democracy in the Muslim world.

Lisa Blaydes is an assistant professor of political science at Stanford University. She is currently completing a book manuscript on elections and distributive politics in Egypt. She can be reached at blaydes@stanford.edu.

Drew A. Linzer is an assistant professor of political science at Emory University. His current research examines elections, ideology, and public opinion around the world. He can be reached at dlinzer@emory.edu.

* We thank Tim Biithe, Douglas Dion, James Honaker, Behnam Sadeghi, Jonathan Slapin, George Tsebelis, and especially Amaney Jamal for helpful and insightful comments. Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the 2006 annual meetings of the American Political Science Association and the Midwest Political Science Association.