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Adult roles and the gender gap in political knowledge: a comparative study

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journal contribution
posted on 26.03.2019 by Monica Ferrín, Marta Fraile, Gema M. García-Albacete

The unusual size and persistence of the gender gap in political knowledge is perplexing in comparison to other dimensions of politics. Building on situational explanations of political engagement, this article claims that women’s and men’s specific adult roles lead to an enlargement of the gender gap in knowledge. The present study analyses men and women’s levels of political knowledge at different life stages by means of two unique datasets specifically collected to measure what people know about politics. Findings show that adult roles provide more opportunities for men to gain political knowledge than for women. Furthermore, the comparison of levels of political knowledge in two such dissimilar countries as Finland and Spain suggests that while gender equality policies are successful in tearing down some of the obstacles that hinder women’s contact with the political world, they are still insufficient to completely bridge the gender gap in political knowledge during adulthood.


This work was supported by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (under grants CSO2016-75090-R and CSO2012-32009) and the Centro de Investigaciones Sociológicas (CIS).