Power Inequality: Trends in Europe

Inequality is generally understood as long-standing structured differences in social, economic, legal, and political resources. Inequalities intersect, such that power inequality is associated with economic, legal, social, and political inequality.

What is power inequality?

Power inequality is defined as structured differences in the capacity of principals to realize their will against the interests and efforts of subalterns. (See What is Power? What is a Power Structure?).

Everyday citizens receive the brunt of power inequality. Representation and participation should empower those at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder. Yet, across nations and time, an individual’s position in the social structure interacts with the economic and political environment to repress the mass actions that could, potentially, push the elites toward fair economic redistribution.

How does power inequality endure? There are two mechanisms (see Lopez and Dubrow 2020). One mechanism is how elites reproduce inequalities, or “elite coordination.” A second mechanism is how social inequalities structure participation and contestation. We call this second mechanism, “mass discoordination.” The two key mechanisms of elite coordination and mass discoordination feed off of each other. The uneven distribution of power resources encourages the elite — who head the democratic institutions and set the rules — to pursue greater concentration; meanwhile, the elite-led institutions that allow such disparities to occur promote roadblocks that either prevent groups from participating, such as in the case of disenfranchised citizens, or discourages collective coordination around shared interests. The masses remain aggrieved yet disorganized.

I examine power inequality in its two main forms: political voice and economic control.

Political Voice

Political voice is (a) participation – verbal, physical, symbolic, monetary, or otherwise – in the political sphere by individuals, organizations, social groups, interest groups, or entire populations in electoral and non-electoral situations. Voice refers also to (b) representation by movements, organizations, legislative representatives, or political leaders and other public figures. Representation has many dimensions (e.g. Pitkin 1967; Mansbridge 2003). From a voice perspective, representation is someone or something engaged in the expression of interests in the political sphere on behalf of others or to promote an idea.

Economic Control

Economic control refers to the degree of freedom individuals and groups have to access and acquire the material resources necessary to thrive in capitalist society. Power inequality is directly related to economic control. In societies with high power equality, individuals and social groups have greater economic control. In societies with high power inequality, individuals and social groups have lesser economic control.

Relationship between Political Voice and Economic Control

Political voice and economic control intersect. Political participation is a core aspect of political voice and it is a foundation of European democracies. Of the social forces that act in tandem to influence political participation, economic inequality, social spending, and clientelism loom large. Whereas economic inequality in modern capitalist societies is associated with the maldistribution of political power and unequal political engagement, institutional contexts of the political economy can amplify or dampen the impact of economic inequality. In theory, social spending should mitigate the negative externalities of economic inequality through the provision of the social and economic resources to individuals and social groups that they need to participate in politics. Equitable social spending across socioeconomic strata should relieve social and economic burdens that make it difficult for disadvantaged groups to participate in democratic life, and thus buoy the participatory environment. Yet, social spending is not necessarily equally distributed; clientelism intervenes to push resources towards already politically and economically advantaged groups, thus lowering the level of political participation. (See POLINQ Project).

Political voice inequality is the inequality in influence – directly via political participation and indirectly through party representation – over the government decisions that impact society. Exacerbating voice inequality are economic conditions, including economic inequality. Whereas macro-level economic inequality matters under some conditions, what matters more is how structural inequalities, economic ones included, impact vulnerable disadvantaged social groups. Grievances of the masses are multi-dimensional – economic, as well as social and political – such that low income and low political opportunities leads to political dissatisfaction with external institutions.

Theoretical model of power inequality

In Figure 1, I summarize the theoretical framework. It is a multivalent structure in which power inequality attacks society at all levels. The macro-level’s economic, political, legal, and social factors are national and Europe-wide contexts that influence the meso-level organizations and institutions. The macro and meso layers influence the thoughts, behaviors, and experiences of social groups and individuals. The macro, meso, and micro-levels combine to both create society and form the deleterious inequalities that destabilize democratic institutions and lower democratic quality. Positive and negative events within the macro-meso-micro structures can alter the form, speed, duration, and magnitude of this recursive cycle.

Through this model, we can view how inequalities travel through the macro-meso-micro dimensions to impact society’s power inequalities. Power inequalities throughout the system destabilize social institutions and degrade the quality of democracy and social well-being.

Figure 1. Theoretical Model of Power Inequality

The model is inspired by Coleman’s Boat. We can view “power inequality” as the prow of the boat. The arrows indicate association, rather than causality. The arrow from “Micro” to “power inequality” means all of micro, and not just “behaviors.” The definition of “institutions” can vary. I separate them from macro-structures even though some may consider them as macro-structures. The entire model is recursive, meaning that all of the parts intersect and repeat across time based on these redounding and reinforcing relationships.

The point of the model is to explain how power inequality influences society. Indeed, power relations permeate the model. Power in economic, political, and social relationships determine peoples’ acquisition and access to scarce and valued resources, including power itself. Power guides practices, policies, and discourses.

Practices, policies, and discourses occur in the meso-layer. They are what we do, what is codified, and what we talk and write about. They are both the input into, outcomes of, unequal power relations. The list of meso-level organizations and institutions is long and can be longer.

The micro-layer has three parts: values (and attitudes), behaviors, and identities/experiences/demographics. The “behaviors” are what people do, or report that they do, and what we social scientists can observe. We can view their occupations (jobs), political participation, and discriminatory or equality-producing practices (whether they promote discrimination or equality).

The stakeholder environment is the clientelism, favoritism, and other -isms that impact who the power structure benefits. The stakeholders should be named: they are the masses, and that includes the workers in the meso-layer and the people not in the meso-layer; they are also the elite who are outliers in power and resources. The elite hail from various sectors of the meso-layer.

For example, economic structures impact how electoral institutions function (in essence giving preference to candidates from privileged backgrounds and occupations) that create policies to promote pro-inequality norms. This leads to discriminatory behaviors that impact the experiences of disadvantaged groups, e.g. from lower socioeconomic status. A result is that their voices are marginalized, e.g. lesser representation and lower impact of their political participation, and social well being degrades.

Power inequality prevails, and thus policies are not designed for the disadvantaged.

Trends in Power Inequality

Let’s examine trends in power inequality over time, especially the intersection of political voice and economic control. The V-Dem codebook v.12 defines the measure, “Political Equality” (pp. 207 – 209).

See our series on “Power Equality as measured by the Varieties of Democracy Project”

V-Dem guides the experts attention to particular groups’ political equality: (a) socioeconomic position, (b) social groups, (c) gender, and (d) sexual orientation. V-Dem tells the expert that all countries have economic inequality, whether wealth or income, to at least some degree. V-Dem is concerned here with the link, as Manza (2015) does, between economic inequality and the distribution of political power, or what they call the “political effects” of unequal economic distribution.

V-Dem posits three hypothetical groups – the wealthy, the average person, and the poor. There are four possible responses: (0) Wealthy have a monopoly on power; (1) Wealthy are dominant, the average have little power, the poor none at all; (2) the wealthy have a “strong hold on power,” and the average and the poor have a little bit of power but only over the things that the wealthy do not bother to contest; (3) The wealthy and the average have about equal influence, and the poor has significant influence; (4) complete political equality between the three groups.

In the East, the immediate post-1989 era brought a rise in power inequality between socioeconomic groups (Figure 2). (see Socioeconomic Status: Definition and Measurement). Whereas, around 1989, power was relatively equally distributed across SES groups, by the 2010s, the wealthy had a strong hold on power. In the West, equality was never on the table. However, they managed to maintain less power inequality than the East.

Figure 2. Power Distributed by Socioeconomic Position in Europe, East and West, 1989 – 2020s

Does this situation hold if we change the measure? As a quasi-robustness check, I examine the question, “social class equality in respect for civil liberty” from V-Dem. This V-Dem item was managed by Svend-Erik Skaaning. Here, V-Dem experts were asked, “Do poor people enjoy the same level of civil liberties as rich people do?” They clarify the question:

“This question specifies the extent to which the level of civil liberties is generally the same across socioeconomic groups so that people with a low social status are not treated worse than people with high social status. Here, civil liberties are understood to include access to justice, private property rights, freedom of movement, and freedom from forced labor.”

Thus, it is substantively similar to the “political equality of socioeconomic groups,” as they reduce class to SES. This is a mistake in terms of defining social class, but since I am interested in economic control as defined and measured by SES, it is a valid measure.

The experts could choose between the following responses: “0: Poor people enjoy much fewer civil liberties than rich people; 1: Poor people enjoy substantially fewer civil liberties than rich people; 2: Poor people enjoy moderately fewer civil liberties than rich people; 3: Poor people enjoy slightly fewer civil liberties than rich people; 4: Poor people enjoy the same level of civil liberties as rich people.

Figure 3. Social class equality with respect to civil liberties, East and West, 1989 – 2020s

Figure 3 describes a situation similar to that of power distributed by socioeconomic position. After 1989, the East declined such that, more or less, the economically disadvantaged have lesser civil liberties than that of the economically advantaged. The West fare somewhat better across this time, but the enjoyment of civil liberties is still far from equal.

            In sum, from 1989 to the present, citizens in the East and in the West are unequal when it comes to the distribution of power and the enjoyment of civil liberties. Where as the East had declined, they declined toward the level of the West, and surpassed them in power inequality. The West is no paradise when it comes to power equality; they have been consistently unequal even without a political and economic revolution. We should note that the Great Recession of 2008 did not have much of an impact on power inequality.


Zolberg’s Moments of Madness

I summarize and critique a classic article in the fields of protest and social movements by Aristide R. Zolberg, “Moments of madness.” Politics & Society 2, no. 2 (1972): 183-207.

See also…

Zolberg’s Thesis

Zolberg’s thesis, designed to help us understand social and political change, is simple. During an intense social and political situation, such as a revolution, there is a mass feeling that everything could change. The main quote is in the first sentence: “what are we to make of moments when human beings living in modern societies believe that ‘all is possible’?” (183). Zolberg calls them, “moments of madness.” 

Theory: Moments of Madness

Zolberg’s theory is based on a combination of collective behavior and social psychology. Zolberg argued that such mass events are a temporary yet major disruption to normal patterns of social and political behavior. The result is a collective sense of “madness” that temporarily overtakes individuals and groups, wherein they believe that the old order of things is no longer viable — they think that something was wrong with it — and a new order could be built. Madness occurs only during some periods and in special circumstances. 

These moments are opportunities for individuals and groups to experiment with new ideas and forms of collective action, power structures, and ideologies. It allows people to see themselves anew, and thus it allows them to see society anew. 

“In short, that project, repeatedly achieved at least in part, consists in the immediate transformation of society through a drastic change of the conceptions human beings have of that society and of themselves” (203). 

In this cognitive liberation (e.g. McAdam) “it is through drastic changes in the experiences of individuals, already socialized into the existing society, that the transformational processes noted above occur” (207).

Moments can create change because they are part of the process of major political change which, historically, have always featured some kind of protest. Thus, moments are tied to political participation, though the causality is not clear. Perhaps they have a reciprocal relationship — protest → madness → more protest → more madness … change, though protest perhaps occurs first.

The outcomes of moments are not necessarily a new and better society. Indeed, utopianism can give way to pessimism or dystopianism. “What we remember most is that moments of political enthusiasm are followed by bourgeois repression or by charismatic authoritarianism, sometimes by horror but always by the restoration of boredom” (205). However, there can be good things that come out of it. There are “lasting political accomplishments that are perhaps made possible only by the suspension of disbelief in the impossible which is characteristic of moments of madness” (206). 

Evidence for Moments of Madness

Empirically, Zolberg’s evidence is based on the writings, generally of intellectuals, from several major events in French history from the 19th and 20th centuries, including a revolution in 1848 and the civil unrest in May 1968. Zolberg quotes pamphlets that declare “All is Possible!” and a diarist who wrote about “an eruption of volcanic happiness,” of “absolute magic” (185). Zolberg writes about the “atmosphere of the streets” (185) where people feel free and think that a utopia (Marxist or socialist) is possible. Zolberg strings together the writings of these varied events because, together, they give “the phenomenon a persuasive concreteness each event may not possess individually” (196). In this method, the idea is to collect everything into one jar to better see their connections.

Criticisms of the Moments of Madness thesis

It is difficult to know whether such “moments of madness” really exist. From these writings it is difficult to generalize: they may exist for the writers that Zolberg quotes, but it is not clear whether these writers accurately portray the situation for others, especially those outside of the intelligentsia. Since the evidence is not wholly convincing, the merit of Zolberg’s thesis is whether we perceive that this might occur, or if we have lived through it ourselves, and know it to be true. 

The thesis ignores the role of elites in generating policy, and that turnover of elites does not mean that the ideas of the old elite will disappear. By cultural transmission or by pragmatism, policies are transferred to the new elite. Often, new administrations keep the policies of the old administration, because a brand new society is difficult to conceive and implement from nothing. Indeed, the moments of madness may yield nothing more than incremental change. Incremental changes happen all the time — do we need a revolution and the attendant moment of madness for these changes to occur? 


This article, published in 1972, was likely inspired by the events of 1968, when protests by students and workers, who were dissatisfied with the country’s social and political situation, were met with force by the government. 

Zolberg asks whether the moments of madness are rooted in features specific to French society. This would require a comparative perspective.

This post was written by Joshua K. Dubrow and funded, in part, by the National Science Centre, Poland (2021/43/B/HS6/01155) entitled “The Construction of Post-Pandemic Society: Covid-19 Street Protest in Poland.”

Social Movement Theory: Fields, Arenas, and Players

Social movement theory typically uses the concepts of fields, arenas, and players or actors. But these concepts seem to be conceptually similar. In this post, I critique two articles by prominent social movement theorists to understand fields, arenas, and players. At the end, I attempt a synthesis.

See also: Social Movement Outcomes

Social Movement Fields

Useem, Bert, and Jack A. Goldstone. “The paradox of victory: social movement fields, adverse outcomes, and social movement success.” Theory and Society 51, no. 1 (2022): 31-60.

The authors develop the concept of “fields” to understand the dynamics that govern the relation between movements and outcomes, including the duration of those outcomes. They claim that we must move from the simple dyad of “movement→target” to an accounting of the complex environment in which movements may or may not cause outcomes. The consequences of using only a dyadic relationship (e.g. challenger – incumbent or movement-target) in which the challenger/target has changed its behavior (from T1 to T2) has dire consequences: “if we do not escape from treating movement outcomes in the ‘challenger-incumbent’ view, we will stumble in seeking to explain paradoxical results and will misidentify actual outcomes” (35). Misidentification and misattribution are core problems in establishing causal relationships.

Outcomes are a change in “the alignment of the broader social movement feld” (32). “Success” is a “favorable” alignment in this field. Polarization is a particularly pernicious force that can lead to negative outcomes, including reversals of movement successes.

What is a field?

The concept of field is developed from Bourdieu and from DiMaggio and Powell. There is no single model (34). 

Fields consist of interactions between actors and institutions in the field. “social movement dynamics should always be seen as an interaction between movements, their targets, and other actors and institutions comprising a social movement feld” (36) This seems tautological — social movement dynamics are the dynamics of a social movement field. It makes no sense.

Who is in the field?

There are many actors in the field, including “potential allies, countermovements, the public, and multiple actors in positions of authority” (33). Later, the authors write more expansively about the “broader” movement field, “which includes not only the movement and its target, but also active and potential counter-movements, active and potential coalition partners, the broader public, and other organizations and actors who, though not the target of the movement, would be affected by the movement’s actions and goal” (34).

How to use fields?

They must be identified and “analyzed as a whole” (35 – 36). On p. 37, they attempt to show how to apply the concept of fields through the concepts of victory and success. They try to make a distinction between “victory” and “success,” an argument that only an academic could love. In reality, they are the same. I suppose what they wanted to argue is that “victory” is short-term, narrow, and potentially temporary and “success” is long-term, broad, and potentially durable. They could have just said so, but instead, they tried to make a clever distinction between synonyms. They elaborate further on p. 56.

Their empirical cases for this Theory & Society article are a comparison between Yale University and the University of Missouri. Each protested against racial injustice. Yale had a lasting success in changing aspects of the racially discriminatory system and UM had a polarizing and short-term “victory” on these scores. The empirical analysis they provide seems trivial: both percent of Black students enrolled and revenues may and likely have nothing to do with protests, and show only slight fluctuations anyway. The “field” may or may not matter because, as the authors themselves eloquently explain the divergent situation in the conclusion: 

“Yale is a rich private school in a generally progressive northeastern state, with exceptional resources to respond to requests for additional spending. The University of Missouri is a public university in a state with a long history of racial segregation (Mizzou admitted its first Black undergraduate only in 1950, eighty years after Yale had done so). The University of Missouri is also far more dependent on tuition revenues than Yale…” (50).

This shows the limits of “field” and its porous conceptual boundary with “context.” The “field” is embedded in an historical context. Obviously, one cannot attribute actions of each movement without considering the divergent historical contexts in which they operate. Yale and UM had similar actions, but the effect was likely not due to their actions in that field, but to the historical context. If UM should have acted differently, then the authors should have posited a counterfactual.


Jasper, James M. “Linking arenas: structuring concepts in the study of politics and protest.” Social Movement Studies 20, no. 2 (2021): 243-257.

The purpose of the article is to propose a superior vocabulary for understanding actions within social movements. The key concepts are arenas and players.  Jasper sets arenas and players as a superior vocabulary intended to clarify a myriad of other concepts, including “institutions, fields, spaces, systems, and related concepts (sectors, worlds, configurations, and more)” (253). Jasper believes that many social movement frameworks and concepts can be reduced to arenas and players.

Jasper’s main critical target is structures. He argues that actors and structures are integral and integrated, but structures constrain only to a point. Structural theories do not acknowledge their limits, he argues. Criticizing the extant literature of structures, he argues, “The lesson is that any theory of constraint and structure needs to be paired with a theory of players, intentions, psychology, culture, and action” (244). These are vague terms that need definition. For example, he never defines “intentions” or “action.” Jasper criticizes structures at length later in the article (pp. 246 – 249).

Despite my criticisms, I value this article because there are strong attempts at definitions of the main concepts. At least Jasper gives us something we can work with.

Definition of Arena

Jasper’s definition: “Arenas are physical places where players interact to generate decisions and other outcomes; they contain objects ranging from doors and seats to quotes chiseled into marble walls to illumination and amplification devices, but they also have formal rules and informal expectations, as well as something at stake in the decisions made.” (244) Parenthetically, he adds, “some authors usefully employ the term more metaphorically, or as an aggregate, such as public opinion or the media as arenas” (244).

Let’s break that down: Arenas can be physical and material or intangible and ideational. Rules and expectations, which can be formal or informal, influence thoughts and behavior of the actors within. I don’t know what “something at stake” means.

Whereas “Arenas are intended as micro-level building blocks, the places where weighty strategic engagements occur” (253), arenas may or may not be places of decisions — they may have other, I suppose non-decisional, activities within them (250).

Definition of Players

Jasper defined players as “individuals or groups who have some shared identity, some common goals, and who operate in at least one arena” (244). 

Let’s break that down: Players have a shared identity. Players can be in multiple arenas simultaneously, and have different roles and advantages and disadvantages within them. “Almost always, a player has access to some arenas but not others; more advantages in some arenas than in others; and some choice of which arenas to enter, which arenas to put resources and attention in.” (247). Players are not necessarily objectively verifiable networks. They may be “imagined communities or necessary fictions” (246). Despite the shared identity and aims, they are not necessarily unified: “Players are constantly shifting, dissolving, and recombining” (245). 

How do players interact?

They interact in “long sequences” of action and reaction. They do so within the historical circumstance: “players and arenas reflect the weight of history” (245). Their alliances shift and can be fragile (250). They compete and cooperate. 

Structures & Stability and Arenas & Players

Jasper downplays structures as objective realities and finds their importance in how people perceive structures. Jasper writes, “both arenas and players contain some structural influences” (245). Structures matter: “Cultural-strategic models like this one still recognize external constraints…“ (245). But Jasper emphasizes the subjective aspects of constraints: “…at least as filtered through our expectations and calculations” (245). These perspectives matter for how they view the possibilities of action: “a structural barrier is insurmountable if a player believes it is” (246). They may also be tougher than players realize, he also argues. He criticizes structures as downplaying nuance and favoring stronger, more powerful actors and institutions over everyone else.

There are static structures, but structures change. Players shift. Arenas morph: “Arenas also change constantly” (245).

Blurred Distinction between arenas and players

Most troublesome for Jasper’s argument is that arenas and players may be the same. “It can be difficult to distinguish a player and an arena,” he writes (246). “Players can become arenas (all of them do when they make decisions),” he writes (246). Indeed, “players and arenas are meant to be observable, tangible entities,” but they may not be (246). How a player can also be an arena, Jasper does not make clear.

If arenas and players are the same, then what are the conceptual boundaries that separate them? How can we meaningfully and empirically observe their differences? In short, what is the use of the concepts if we cannot profitably deploy them to understand reality?

Jasper’s Criticisms of Fields

Jasper criticizes fields. “A field, to be worthy of the name and of all this fuss, must exert a force of its own directly on the players in it, a force that does not come from other players” (249). Fields exert force because they are connected to structures, but this leads to a “potential circularity of fields: players have the gains and losses they do because of their positions on the field, but those gains and losses also place them on that field” (248). 

Fields, then, merge players and arenas, but this is not a good solution, according to Jasper. Even though Jasper writes that arenas and players may be difficult to distinguish (246), he argues that “The forthright solution is to separate players and arenas” (249). A field is a set of arenas: “A field might range from a single arena, in which case it is not very interesting, up to a whole set of arenas linked in various ways” (249). This is a precursor to his conceptual use of “aggregation.”

Jasper’s criticism of Spaces

Jasper also criticizes spaces. Jasper writes that “The term spaces promises, on the basis of its root metaphor, to identify locations of protest (251). But spaces are not necessarily physical: “Beyond the actual physical locations of protest activities, space primarily remains a metaphorical means to talk about the movement sector” (251). Jasper criticizes space, then, as having boundary issues, and then reduces it to the vocabulary of arenas and players: space is useful “as a way to talk about aggregations of linked players, especially around a set of issues” (251).


Jasper is concerned with aggregations, both appropriate and inappropriate. Are fields aggregations of players and arenas? (250). Are aggregations of fields the “protest space” or “social movement sector”? 

Jasper does not define aggregation, but we know it as “A whole formed by combining several separate elements.” (Oxford english dictionary online). The aim of constructing an aggregate is to enable social scientists to observe the phenomenon of interest. We aggregate to directly see some phenomenon that we believe to exist. If the aggregate was not there, we would never have directly seen that phenomenon.

Aggregations introduce boundary problems — where one thing has its place, aggregation groups it with others, and the boundaries between the individual (thing, node) and the newly formed aggregate blend. 

Fields and spaces may be aggregations. Fields may be aggregations of arenas: “we can preserve field as a reasonable word to get at aggregations of arenas” (252). Spaces may be aggregations, too, but of both arenas and players. “We are free to use fields to describe concatenations of specific arenas, and spaces to describe concatenations of players” (253).

Photo by Joe Yates on Unsplash

Combining Useem and Goldstone with Jasper: Fields and Arenas

Let’s call fields, arenas, and players as a conceptual framework (see: “Conceptual framework vs. Theoretical framework – and constructing each”). For a concept or conceptual framework to be useful, we must be able to define and observe it. We must be able to separate it from other concepts and conceptual frameworks. There must be useful, even if imperfect, boundaries.

Both the conceptual frameworks of fields and “arenas and players” have serious problems. Fields have a vague definition. Insomuch as they are a set of micro-meso-macro interactions, they still have porous boundaries; it is difficult to separate one field from another. Moreover, the conceptual distinction between fields and social structures is not sharp.

Arenas and players seem to have better conceptual definitions, but Jasper makes a series of arguments that muddy the clarity, and not in a good way. Players may be arenas, for example. Arenas and players constantly shift and morph. The boundaries between them are porous and hard to empirically distinguish.

OK. They have problems. Let’s see if we can synthesize them.

Let’s say that fields are a set of interactions that involve actors and institutions that operate within historical context and social structure. Fields’ actors have agency in which they attempt to change the structure, thereby altering the field. It is through action that fields change.

Because “set of interactions” is vague, let’s define a field further as an aggregation of arenas. Arenas are physical and material or intangible and ideational. Rules and expectations, which can be formal or informal, influence thoughts and behavior of the actors within. These rules and expectations are part of the social structure. 

For a social movement, the term “players” seems apt, as it imposes the idea of a shared identity and common goal. “Actor” is a vague term that does not have this imposition. 

For this to work, we need to resolve some problems. How can we deal with the extremely problematic blurring of arenas and players? We can ignore Jasper and say that players can not be arenas. We can also imagine other boundaries. How can we deal with aggregations? Are arenas and players the building blocks of fields and spaces? We can treat them as such, and say that arenas aggregate into fields, and “players” are the specific set of actors within those arenas.

This post was written by Joshua K. Dubrow and funded, in part, by the National Science Centre, Poland (2021/43/B/HS6/01155) entitled “The Construction of Post-Pandemic Society: Covid-19 Street Protest in Poland.”

Social Movement Outcomes

Do social movements cause social change? How would we know?

We look to the success of the civil rights movement in the United States and conclude, “Yes, social movements matter.” But, there are many social movements around the world, and there are many social changes.

How do we know if social movements cause social change? Unfortunately, many factors contribute to social change and it is difficult to draw a straight line between social movement actions and the changes they seek. To understand why, we first must consider the problem of causality.

What is causality?

Let’s say that X represents a factor, such as a “social movement activity.” Let’s say Y is the outcome, such as “social change.” How do we know X –> Y?

  • An association between X and Y exists
  • X precedes (is before) Y in some meaningful way
  • The relationship between X and Y is not caused by Z, another factor, i.e. eliminating “spuriousness.”

Let’s look at X → Y

In this simplest version, assume that X causes Y. How? X comes before Y, in some meaningful temporal way. Even if we measure X at the same time as Y, we can still build a model in which X comes before Y.

But, what if there are many factors and many possible outcomes?

What if…

(i) there are multiple X (X1, X2, …Xn) that could reasonably impact Y and

(ii) we cannot isolate these factors, i.e. a real world situation in which the units of observation cannot be controlled? 

This problem applies to the study of social movement outcomes: there are multiple real-world factors that we cannot manipulate in an experiment that would cause Y. Moreover,

(a) there are factors regarding power that we cannot observe;

(b) we have multiple possible Y;

(c) all possible Y may change over time.

Without understanding the chain of causality, we risk misidentifying actual outcomes and misattributing outcomes to the movement. In other words, we may not observe outcomes we could have observed, and we may think the movement mattered when, in fact, it did not.

The movement may be a spurious factor.

How do we define “social movement”?

If we are going to measure the impact of a social movement on social change, we need to define what a social movement is. Let’s look at three common definitions of the term.

  • A social movement may be defined as an organized effort by a large number of people to bring
    about or impede social, political, economic, or cultural change.” They work outside of the system.
  • “Social movements are defined as networks of informal interactions between a plurality of individuals, groups and/or organizations, engaged in political or cultural conflicts, on the basis of shared collective identities” (Dani 1992). From Diani, M. (1992). The Concept of Social Movement. The Sociological Review, 40(1), 1–25.

See also: “Social movements” created by Sydney Brown. The video is lively and helpful.

As we can see, it is difficult to define the term. Some think of it in terms of organizations. Some in terms of networks and informal interactions.

Let’s say we pick a definition of social movement. How do we know if it causes social change?

Before I give you my answer, let’s ask OpenAI’s ChatGPT. This is an AI program that answers open ended questions. The answers are short (ca. 170 words).

Q: How do we know if a social movement causes social change?


We can know if a social movement causes social change by examining the impact of the movement on the social, political, and economic structures of society. Some key indicators of social change include:

Changes in laws and policies: If a social movement leads to changes in laws or policies, such as new laws being passed or existing laws being amended, this can be a sign of social change.

Changes in social norms and attitudes: If a social movement leads to changes in social norms and attitudes, such as increased acceptance of marginalized groups or greater awareness of social issues, this can be a sign of social change.

Changes in social institutions: If a social movement leads to changes in social institutions, such as schools, hospitals, or government agencies, this can be a sign of social change.

Changes in the distribution of power and resources: If a social movement leads to changes in the distribution of power and resources, such as increased access to education or healthcare for marginalized groups, this can be a sign of social change.

By examining these and other indicators, we can determine if a social movement has caused social change in a society.

Pretty good, chatbot AI! But, let’s look to the human literature for an in-depth answer.

Social Movement Outcomes: Problems and Solutions

This is based on two articles, plus some of my own thinking.

Identify the movement

Does the movement have a clear form, or a clear organizational core? If not, researchers would have to piece together the different strands of the movement to identify it as an entity with goals.

Identify the goals of the movement

The application of “success” or “failure” applies to whether we can identify a clear set of stated goals of the movement and compare them to their outcomes. However, a “social movement” may be large and unorganized with no agreement among its members on any specific goal.

We must also be able to identify the goal at T1 to know if there was a change in T2.

Identify the target of the movement

A movement must interact with its target. But first, what are the specific targets of the movement?

Time matters

To measure outcomes, we need to identify the short-term vs. long-term goals. Again, this is difficult if we cannot identify the goals.

Domains of outcomes

Social, economic, cultural, political? What is their specific form, duration, and magnitude?

Let’s look at the domain of outcomes as according to Bosi and Uba (2009):

Political: “changes in policies, legislation, political institutions, and regimes, or the actions taken by political parties”

Cultural: “changes in the values and ideas of the public, the development of new cultural products and practices (for example, popular culture and language), and the formation of collective identity and subcultures”

Biographical: “the impact of mobilization on the lives of sympathizers and participants in social movements”

Why not economic change?

Scope of Outcomes

Narrow vs. Broad: Outcomes can be narrow, as observing specific actions and changes to intended targets. They can be too broad, such as unintended consequences.

Changes in outcomes over time

One outcome can seemingly become a “success” or “failure” as time passes. At T1, the outcome for a domain was (…), but at T2, the outcome for a domain became (…). How durable is the change?

Direct vs. indirect effects

One outcome may be, theoretically, the direct effect of a movement, but another outcome may be directly caused by another factor. However, the movement may have impacted that factor:

Direct: X → Y
Indirect: X → Z → Y

“The direct effect of social movement means that the impact of a movement is determined by controlling for other factors that could lead to the outcome of interest. The second effect suggests that social movements first affect some factor that later appears as crucial for a political, cultural, or biographical change.” (410)

Conditions matter

Movements may have an impact in some places but not others, because of differences in the social, economic, cultural, or political conditions. Under what conditions do these movements matter?

Mechanisms matter

What are the actors and actions on the chain between the movement and the outcome that caused change?

Imagine the complexity of methods: to understand biographical change from an intersectional approach to dynamic changes in outcomes over differing time spans. Our methods cannot cope. It is too difficult to track, statistically speaking. The best we can do is to create stories from qualitative methods, and hope the stories will spark intellectual understanding.

Bosi and Uba (2009) “Future perspectives”

  1. To understand the steps between movement and outcome, reach out to other fields;
  2. More cross-national, cross-time comparisons;
  3. Better measurement from collecting various forms of data, multi-source and complex databases;
  4. Examine a wider range of examples (cases), especially those outside of liberal left wing movements that dominate the literature;
  5. Go beyond governments to other targets, such as the elite, or corporations, or lobbying groups, etc.;
  6. Discuss multiple outcome domains in the same study.

This post was funded by the National Science Centre, Poland (2021/43/B/HS6/01155), “The Construction of Post-Pandemic Society: Covid-19 Street Protest in Poland.”

Copyright Joshua Dubrow 2022 politicalinequality.org

Gender Quotas in Politics

Gender quotas in politics are rules that aim at providing opportunities for women to be in parliament or to appear on candidate lists in elections for political office.

In this post, we discuss the types of gender quotas in politics, how parliaments in democracy adopt quotas, whether they are effective in placing more women in positions of power, and the consequences of gender quotas for democracy and society.

At a glance

  1. Types of Gender Quotas
  2. How are quotas adopted?
  3. Are gender quotas in politics effective?
  4. What are the consequences of gender quotas for politics and society?
  5. Conclusion: Gender Quotas in Politics Matter

Types of Gender Quotas

There is some form of quota in almost every European country, but the form of the quota varies by the country’s socio-cultural context, its fit with the electoral system, whether it is for candidate lists or seats in parliament, how and by how much the candidate list should be structured, and if it is for local, national, or European Parliament elections, to name a few dimensions.

The plethora of dimensions to quota policies worldwide has led scholars to pragmatically declare that if we want to study quota causes and consequences, we should match specific definitions to relevant research questions (e.g. Krook 2014: 10).

To simplify but not terribly over-simplify matters, we can say that in Europe there are a few main gender quota types.

Reserved Seats

This is a set percentage or seat allocation for women.

Legislative or Electoral law quotas

Quotas are mandated by a specific electoral or constitutional law about the form of quotas and, perhaps, how they are implemented and enforced.

Voluntary party quotas

Political parties adopt quotas within their own party organization, but are not compelled by a national law of any kind to do so.

Reserved seats directly place women into parliament and are rare. Legislative and voluntary quotas are about increasing the number of women as candidates and are popular.

How are quotas adopted?

There are so many types of quotas and quota regimes that there is no one path to this policy. The main, interlacing factors to consider are the:

  • Form of the quota (reserved seat, legislative, or voluntary party quota);
  • National and transnational factors and actors, including their motivations (e.g. activists, NGOs, and parties);
  • Extent to which the quota push was top-down (i.e. elite driven) or bottom-up (mass or interest group driven);
  • Historical context (Krook 2006, 2007; Dahlerup and Antic Gaber 2017).

Scholars consider women and women’s interest groups in the form of activist organizations, NGOs, INGOs, and WINGOs, as important mobilizing forces that move quotas from idea to reality (Krook 2007; Tripp and Kang 2008; Hughes et al 2017).

At the same time, the political elite may see electoral advantages for quota adoption (for themselves or for their party) or are simply driven by the equality principle behind it (Krook 2007; Caul 2001). Indeed, Poland’s adoption of a legislative gender quota was a result of simultaneous bottom-up and top-down approaches as women’s groups among activists and NGOs coordinated with a group of women from the Sejm (Króliczek 2012; Gwiazda 2015; Fuszara 2017; Śledzińska-Simon and Bodnar 2013).

A main path has been the transnational diffusion of both quota policy and implementation ideas (Krook 2006; Hughes et al 2015). International bodies such as the United Nations and the European Union have, through democracy promotion policies that encourage Western notions of gender equality norms, played an important role in the diffusion of gender quotas, especially for developing countries and EU hopefuls (Krook and O’Brien 2010; Bush 2011; Rosen 2017). Late adopters to quotas follow the trail left by early adopters: the proliferation of quotas has led to the greater proliferation of quotas (Paxton and Hughes 2015).

The path toward gender quota policy is neither smooth nor straight as parties and parliamentarians have sought to deny access and entry (Krook 2016; Dahlerup and Freidenvall 2010). Access and entry are controlled, in part, by leftist parties who tend to support quota adoption and, once in office, attempt to legislate them into existence (Caul 2001). Leftist encouragement is a long-standing factor, but in South East Europe, some centrist and rightist parties have outpaced the left in promoting women in parliament (Rashkova and Zankina 2017).

Parties matter. Party ideology is important but it does not explain everything. Party pragmatism in terms of how quotas can benefit party electoral success is another powerful explanation (Murray et al 2012). A pragmatic perspective sees parties as cost-benefit electoral calculators where ideology plays second fiddle to gaining seats by any means at their disposal.

Are gender quotas in politics effective?

As to whether quotas put more women in office, the answer is yes, clearly, electoral quotas lead to more women in parliament.

“Yet,” Krook (2106) reminds us, “in the vast majority of cases, elections produce lower – sometimes much lower – numbers of women in parliament than the proportions identified in quota policies” (268). 

Numeric gain depends on the electoral system (Paxton et al 2007), but a more important factor is where women are placed on the ballot and the enforcement of the policy (Schwindt-Bayer 2009).

As with all things, intersectionality matters. Gender intersects with ethnicity and other potential points of advantage and disadvantage as personal identities can translate into experiences of inequality. Much of the quotas and intersectionality literature is on gender and ethnicity. The ethnic situation and other aspects of the power structure combine to make gender quotas more or less effective for women of particular intersections (Hughes 2011; Celis et al 2014).

Murray et al’s (2012) “pragmatic parties” may see and act on the advantages of gender quotas, but parties seeking diversity in their candidate lists may select ethnic minority women over ethnic minority men (Celis et al 2014). The particular effect of quota regime on a particular intersection depends on the form of the quota (see Hughes 2011: Table 5, p. 616).

For example, voluntary party quotas are more likely to place ethnic majority women in parliament than they are to place ethnic minority women or men (Hughes 2011), whereas legislated quotas help ethnic majority women more, but also help ethnic minority women to a non-trivial degree. As Hughes (2011: 616) states: “… quotas designed to increase the representation of one marginalized group appear to come often at the expense of other marginalized groups, rather than majority men.”  

What are the consequences of gender quotas for politics and society?

Another view of “effective” is beyond seat gains and toward other consequences. Parliamentary seats for women are one gain, but for implementing gender quota policies, there are other possible gains. Those gains are largely connected with how the political, economic, and social landscape changes when exposed to the need and pressure to place women into powerful positions. The changes beyond seat attainment are context-dependent and are not often explicitly stated in the text of quota policies.

In sum, quotas are effective in that they open the political gate for more women, but the exact consequence is not always in the way the policy explicitly states. 

While parties may be reluctant to change, the combined push for quotas and the adoption of quota policy pressures the parties themselves to change. Parties change by taking gender equality seriously: “The main effect of properly implemented quota systems,” Dahlerup (2007) writes, “is that they make the political parties start recruiting women in a serious way” (88). In the early stages of the policy, however, quotas may not be enough to take down and remake male dominated party structures (Verge and De la Fuente 2014).

Quotas also impact the composition of parliaments and the policy they discuss. While the obvious effect is greater gender diversity, gender quotas may also make the European Parliament a more inclusive place by reducing differences in legislative experience (Aldrich and Daniel 2019).

Case studies of Italy (Baltrunaite 2014), Sweden (Besley et al 2017), and Germany (Xydias 2007) have shown how quotas can change parliament. In direct contrast to rhetorical fears that the so-called “quota women,” who were elected with the assistance of quotas, would be inferior in terms of qualifications, the latest social science evidence shows that they are no different than any other parliamentarian (Allen et al 2016; see also Nugent and Krook 2015).

Quotas have a larger societal effect by opening new doors for women in other realms of social life.

Gender quotas in parliament lead to more women in leadership positions throughout the political structure (O’Brien and Rickne 2016). They also lead to a growth in the acceptance of women in politics and other occupations. France, for example, moved from being strongly against gender quotas, to reluctantly passing a gender quota electoral law, to rapidly expanding toward gender quotas in other occupations – all within just two decades (Lépinard 2016).

The gender quota literature has expanded from quotas in politics to quotas in corporations (e.g. Hughes et al 2017; Meier 2013). The societal result of quotas is that women attain positions of power that society had long deemed out of bounds (Meier and Lombardo 2013; Xydias 2014). 

Conclusion: Gender Quotas in Politics Matter

  • While there are many definitions of gender quotas, scholars identify three main types: reserved seat, electoral (i.e. legislated), and voluntary party.
  • The paths to implementation wind according to the type of quota and the political and social context of the quota push.
  • Quotas are effective, but they tend to put more ethnic majority women in parliament.
  • The effectiveness does not stop there: quotas, by placing more women in places of power, lead to changes in parliament and parties, to new legislation that benefit women, and to transformation of the society in general.

This was based on the book chapter, “An Introduction to Gender Quotas in Europe,” by Joshua K. Dubrow and Adrianna Zabrzewska.

Readings: Gender Quotas in Politics

Aldrich, Andrea S., and William T. Daniel. “The Consequences of Quotas: Assessing the Effect of Varied Gender Quotas on Legislator Experience in the European Parliament.” Politics & Gender (2019): 1-30.

Allen, Peter, David Cutts, and Rosie Campbell. “Measuring the quality of politicians elected by gender quotas–are they any different?.” Political Studies 64, no. 1 (2016): 143-163.

Ballington, Julie, and Francesca Binda, eds. “The implementation of quotas: European experiences.” International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, IDEA, in collaboration with European Forum for Democracy and Solidarity, 2006.

Baltrunaite, Audinga, Piera Bello, Alessandra Casarico, and Paola Profeta. “Gender Quotas and the Quality of Politicians.” Journal of Public Economics 118 (2014): 62-74.

Besley, Timothy, Olle Folke, Torsten Persson, and Johanna Rickne. “Gender quotas and the crisis of the mediocre man: Theory and evidence from Sweden.” American Economic Review 107, no. 8 (2017): 2204-42.

Bush, Sarah Sunn. “International politics and the spread of quotas for women in legislatures.” International Organization 65, no. 1 (2011): 103-137.

Caul, Miki. “Political parties and the adoption of candidate gender quotas: A cross–national analysis.” Journal of Politics 63, no. 4 (2001): 1214-1229.

Celis, Karen, Mona Lena Krook, and Petra Meier. “The rise of gender quota laws: Expanding the spectrum of determinants for electoral reform.” West European Politics 34, no. 3 (2011): 514-530.

Celis, Karen, Silvia Erzeel, Liza Mügge, and Alyt Damstra. “Quotas and intersectionality: Ethnicity and gender in candidate selection.” International Political Science Review 35, no. 1 (2014): 41-54.

Chiru, Mihail, and Marina Popescu. “The Value of Legislative Versus Electoral Experience and Gender in Explaining Candidate List Placement in Closed-List PR.” Problems of Post-Communism 64, no. 2 (2017): 65-78.

Constantinescu, Sorana. “Gender quotas in Romania-A critical overview of the debate.” Europolis, Journal Of Political Science And Theory 10, no. 10 (2) (2016): 169-185.

Dahlerup, Drude, and Milica Antic Gaber. “The legitimacy and effectiveness of gender quotas in politics in CE Europe.” Teorija in Praksa 54, no. 2 (2017): 307.

Dahlerup, Drude, ed. Women, Quotas and Politics. Routledge, 2013.

Dahlerup, Drude, and Lenita Freidenvall. Electoral gender quota systems and their implementation in Europe. European Parliament, 2011.

Dahlerup, Drude, and Lenita Freidenvall. “Judging gender quotas: predictions and results.” Policy & Politics 38, no. 3 (2010): 407-425.

Dahlerup, Drude. “Electoral gender quotas: Between equality of opportunity and equality of result.” Representation 43, no. 2 (2007): 73-92.

Dean, Laura A., and Pedro AG Dos Santos. “The Implications of Gender Quotas In Ukraine: A Case Study of Legislated Candidate Quotas in Eastern Europe’s Most Precarious Democracy.” Teorija in Praksa 54, no. 2 (2017): 355.

Dubrow, Joshua Kjerulf. “Dynamics of political inequality of voice: Romanian and Polish women’s parliamentary representation since 1945.” Studia Universitatis Babes-Bolyai-Sociologia 57, no. 1 (2012): 3-25.

Dubrow, Joshua Kjerulf. “The importance of party ideology: Explaining parliamentarian support for political party gender quotas in Eastern Europe.” Party Politics 17, no. 5 (2011): 561-579.

Dubrow, Joshua Kjerulf, and Dorota Woroniecka. “Polish Parliamentarian Attitudes toward Gender Equality and Gender Quotas: National and European Influences.” National and European (2010): 125-148.

Franceschet, Susan , Mona Lena Krook, and Jennifer M. Piscopo. The Impact of Gender Quotas. Oxford University Press, 2012.

Fuszara, Małgorzata. “Poland – A Success Story? Political History of Introducing Gender Quota in Post-Communist Poland.” Teorija in Praksa 54, no. 2 (2017): 317.

Galligan, Yvonne, and Sara Clavero. “Prospects for women’s legislative representation in postsocialist Europe: The views of female politicians.” Gender & Society 22, no. 2 (2008): 149-171.

Gendźwiłł, Adam, and Tomasz Żółtak. “Do Parties and Voters Counteract Quota Regulations? The Impact of Legislative Gender Quotas on Ballot Ranking and Preference Voting in Poland.” Politics & Gender (2019): 1-31.

Górecki, Maciej A., and Paula Kukołowicz. “Gender quotas, candidate background and the election of women: A paradox of gender quotas in open-list proportional representation systems.” Electoral Studies 36 (2014): 65-80.

Gwiazda, Anna. “Women in parliament: assessing the effectiveness of gender quotas in Poland.” The Journal of Legislative Studies 23, no. 3 (2017): 326-347.

Gwiazda, Anna. “Women’s representation and gender quotas: the case of the Polish parliament.” Democratization 22, no. 4 (2015): 679-697.

Hughes, Melanie M. “Intersectionality, quotas, and minority women’s political representation worldwide.” American Political Science Review 105, no. 3 (2011): 604-620.

Hughes, Melanie M., Mona Lena Krook, and Pamela Paxton. “Transnational women’s activism and the global diffusion of gender quotas.” International Studies Quarterly 59, no. 2 (2015): 357-372.

Hughes, Melanie M., Pamela Paxton, Amanda B. Clayton, and Pär Zetterberg. “Global gender quota adoption, implementation, and reform.” Comparative Politics 51, no. 2 (2019): 219-238.

Hughes, Melanie M., Pamela Paxton, Amanda Clayton, and Pär Zetterberg. 2017. Quota Adoption and Reform Over Time (QAROT), 1947-2015. [Computer file]. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], http://doi.org/10.3886/E100918V1.

Hughes, Melanie M., Pamela Paxton, and Mona Lena Krook. “Gender quotas for legislatures and corporate boards.” Annual Review of Sociology 43 (2017): 331-352.

Jankowski, Michael, and Kamil Marcinkiewicz. “Ineffective and Counterproductive? The Impact of Gender Quotas in Open-List Proportional Representation Systems.” Politics & Gender (2017): 1-33.

Króliczek, Karolina. “The Feminist Way Forward: Gender Quota Policy in Poland.” PhD diss., PhD thesis, Department of Politics, University of York, 2012.

Krook, Mona Lena, and Pär Zetterberg, eds. Gender Quotas and Women’s Representation: New Directions in Research. Routledge, 2017.

Krook, Mona Lena. “Contesting gender quotas: dynamics of resistance.” Politics, Groups, and Identities 4, no. 2 (2016): 268-283.

Krook, Mona Lena. “Electoral gender quotas: A conceptual analysis.” Comparative Political Studies 47, no. 9 (2014): 1268-1293.

Krook, Mona Lena, and Pär Zetterberg. “Electoral quotas and political representation: Comparative perspectives.” International Political Science Review 35, no. 1 (2014): 3-11.

Krook, Mona Lena, and Diana Z. O’Brien. “The politics of group representation: Quotas for women and minorities worldwide.” Comparative Politics 42, no. 3 (2010): 253-272.

Krook, Mona Lena. Quotas for women in politics: Gender and candidate selection reform worldwide. Oxford University Press, 2010.

Krook, Mona Lena, Joni Lovenduski, and Judith Squires. “Gender quotas and models of political citizenship.” British Journal of Political Science 39, no. 4 (2009): 781-803.

Krook, Mona Lena. “Candidate gender quotas: A framework for analysis.” European Journal of Political Research 46, no. 3 (2007): 367-394.

Krook, Mona Lena. “Reforming representation: The diffusion of candidate gender quotas worldwide.” Politics & Gender 2, no. 3 (2006): 303-327.

Kukołowicz, Paula. “Do voters read gender? Stereotypes as voting cues in electoral settings.” Polish Sociological Review 182, no. 2 (2013): 223-238.

Lépinard, Éléonore, and Ruth Rubio-Marín. Transforming Gender Citizenship. Cambridge University Press, 2018.

Lépinard, Éléonore. “From breaking the rule to making the rules: the adoption, entrenchment, and diffusion of gender quotas in France.” Politics, Groups, and Identities 4, no. 2 (2016): 231-245.

Matland, Richard E. Women’s access to political power in post-communist Europe. Oxford University Press, 2003.

Meier, Petra, and Emanuela Lombardo. “Gender quotas, gender mainstreaming and gender relations in politics.” Political Science 65, no. 1 (2013): 46-62.

Meier, Petra. “Quotas, quotas everywhere: From party regulations to gender quotas for corporate management boards. Another case of contagion.” Representation 49, no. 4 (2013): 453-466.

Millard, Frances. “Not much happened: The impact of gender quotas in Poland.” Communist and Post-Communist Studies 47, no. 1 (2014): 1-11.

Murray, Rainbow, Mona Lena Krook, and Katherine AR Opello. “Why are gender quotas adopted? Party pragmatism and parity in France.” Political Research Quarterly 65, no. 3 (2012): 529-543.

Murray, Rainbow. Parties, Gender Quotas and Candidate Selection in France. Palgrave MacMillan, 2010.

Nugent, Mary K., and Mona Lena Krook. “All-women shortlists: myths and realities.” Parliamentary Affairs 69, no. 1 (2015): 115-135.

O’Brien, Diana Z., and Johanna Rickne. “Gender quotas and women’s political leadership.” American Political Science Review 110, no. 1 (2016): 112-126.

Paxton, Pamela, and Melanie M. Hughes. “The increasing effectiveness of national gender quotas, 1990–2010.” Legislative Studies Quarterly 40, no. 3 (2015): 331-362.

Rashkova, Ekaterina R., and Emilia Zankina. “Ministerial Politics in Southeastern Europe: Appointment and Portfolio Allocation to Female Ministers.” Politics & Gender (2019): 1-29.

Rashkova, Ekaterina R., and Emilia Zankina. “Women in Politics in Eastern Europe: A Changing Outlook.” Women, Policy and Political Leadership (2015): 87.

Rashkova, Ekaterina R., and Emilia Zankina. “Women’s Representation in Politics in South Eastern Europe: Quotas and the Importance of Party Differences.” Teorija in Praksa 54, no. 2 (2017): 376-393.

Rosen, Jennifer. “Gender quotas for women in national politics: A comparative analysis across development thresholds.” Social science research 66 (2017): 82-101.

Schwindt‐Bayer, Leslie A. “Making quotas work: The effect of gender quota laws on the election of women.” Legislative Studies Quarterly 34, no. 1 (2009): 5-28.

Śledzińska-Simon, Anna, and Adam Bodnar. “Gender equality from beneath: electoral gender quotas in Poland.” Canadian Journal of Law & Society/La Revue Canadienne Droit et Société 28, no. 2 (2013): 151-168.

Tremblay, Manon, ed. Women and Legislative Representation: Electoral Systems, Political Parties, and Sex Quotas. Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.

Tripp, Aili Mari, and Alice Kang. “The global impact of quotas: On the fast track to increased female legislative representation.” Comparative Political Studies 41, no. 3 (2008): 338-361.

Verge, Tània, and Ana Espírito-Santo. “Interactions between party and legislative quotas: candidate selection and quota compliance in Portugal and Spain.” Government and Opposition 51, no. 3 (2016): 416-439.

Verge, Tània, and María De la Fuente. “Playing with different cards: Party politics, gender quotas and women’s empowerment.” International Political Science Review 35, no. 1 (2014): 67-79.

Verloo, Mieke, ed. Varieties of opposition to gender equality in Europe. Routledge, 2018.

Xydias, Christina V. “Inviting more women to the party: gender quotas and women’s substantive representation in Germany.” International Journal of Sociology 37, no. 4 (2007): 52-66.

Xydias, Christina. “Women’s rights in Germany: generations and gender quotas.” Politics & Gender 10, no. 1 (2014): 4-32.

Further Reading: Major Books and Reports

Ballington, Julie, and Francesca Binda, eds. “The implementation of quotas: European experiences.” International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, IDEA, in collaboration with European Forum for Democracy and Solidarity, 2006.

Dahlerup, Drude, ed. Women, Quotas and Politics. Routledge, 2006.

Dahlerup, Drude, and Milica Antic Gaber. Gender Quotas in Politics in Central East Europe. University of Ljubljana, 2017.

Dahlerup, Drude, and Lenita Freidenvall. Electoral gender quota systems and their implementation in Europe. European Parliament, 2011.

Franceschet, Susan, Mona Lena Krook, and Jennifer M. Piscopo. The Impact of Gender Quotas. Oxford University Press, 2012.

Krook, Mona Lena, and Pär Zetterberg, eds. Gender Quotas and Women’s Representation: New Directions in Research. Routledge, 2017.

Krook, Mona Lena. Quotas for Women in Politics: Gender and Candidate Selection Reform Worldwide. Oxford University Press, 2010.

Lépinard, Éléonore, and Ruth Rubio-Marín, eds. Transforming Gender Citizenship. Cambridge University Press, 2018.

Matland, Richard, and Kathleen Montgomery, eds. Women’s Access to Political Power in Post-Communist Europe. Oxford University Press, 2003.

Murray, Rainbow. Parties, Gender Quotas and Candidate Selection in France. Palgrave MacMillan, 2010.

Tremblay, Manon, ed. Women and Legislative Representation: Electoral Systems, Political Parties, and Sex Quotas. Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.

Verloo, Mieke, ed. Varieties of Opposition to Gender Equality in Europe. Routledge, 2018.

Youth and Political Participation

What does “Youth” or “Young” mean in political participation studies?

Most studies of political participation that feature multivariate regression use age as a linear variable.

The few that do present “age groups” (i.e. age ranges) as a series of dichotomous variables can differ quite a bit on how to conceptualize “youth” and “young” For example, Melo and Stockemer (2014) argue that “most studies place young adults within the 18–25 age range.” They offer no evidence for this claim. 

TLDR: For surveys, 18 – 29 is the safest age range for youth/young, but there are good theoretical reasons to use more complex measures.

Let’s look at how major studies on youth participation have measured “young” or “youth.”

What Age Is Youth/Young/Young People/Young Adult? Some Cross-national Political Participation Studies

Young/YouthMiddle AgeOld AgeReason why youth is coded this wayData used by the studyCite
18 – 3637 – 5354 +NoneISSP 2004Marien et al 2010
18 – 3334 – 4950 – 65 (next is 66+)SeveralESS 2008Melo and Stockemer 2014
12 – 4041 – 6061 – 102NoneESS 2004Quintelier 2007
Differs by country and gender; the upper range could be 20s or 30s.SeveralESS 2002Garcia-Albacete 2014

Some studies outside of political science place young adults as 18 – 29 (e.g. Global Generation Gap 2004 and PEW internet study 2010), or 18 – 25 (“Broad reach…) (see below).

What are age groups?

Scholars created age groups based on

(a) life cycle event that signals a transition to adulthood

Life cycle is based on the idea that the adulthood transition event is tied to an interest in politics and political participation. In theory, people “achieve” something in life (like getting married) and then they are interested in politics.

(b) generation

Generations are based on the idea that there was some historical context that influences the form, probability, and magnitude of participation.

(c) what political parties usually call as “young”

Political parties are important instruments of political interests and mobilizers of participation, and what they consider as young may have some influence on young people’s political engagement.

(d) arbitrary assignment.

Whatevs. No reason or logic given.

Problems of “age groups” like “young” or “youth” in comparative research

In comparative research, the concepts of age have methodological constraints.

Each concept (life cycle, generation, etc.) suggests an age range, but available survey data constrain the possibilities, especially the low end of the range. In cross-national and over-time research, life cycle event, generation, or party signal should be a functionally equivalent concept, e.g. we would have to know the life cycle events appropriate for each country and at each time point. Thus, if one wants to analyze trends in youth participation in a worldwide and long range perspective, the methodological constraints are daunting.

What are alternatives to age groups?

(a) Life cycle event

Garcia-Albacete (2014) found that “age of first marriage” is widely available and, in analyses of Western Europe, other life cycle events (e.g. age of first child, age of leaving parental home) structure the age range and relate to political participation in substantially the same way as age of first marriage. Data on age of first marriage is available in Wikipedia.

(b) Generation

I don’t see a good way to do this outside of Europe. We would have to decide, with little theory to guide us, what the generations of each world region would be and the events that would trigger their probability of participation (e.g. “why would generation [INSERT YEAR RANGE HERE] of Latin America be more/less likely to protest?”).

(c) PEW surveys approach

They use “18 – 29” a lot for their global surveys. They do not justify this.

(d) “Multiple Age Range” and data mining

Scholars can try both “Life Cycle Event by Gender and World Region” and the “PEW 18 – 29” approaches and see if there are differences. Atheoretical “throw it in the model and see what happens.” Not a good approach.

Cited References and Suggested Reading

Broad Reach and Targeted Recruitment Using Facebook for an Online Survey of Young Adult Substance Use” Journal of Medical Internet Research (2012)

Enhancing Youth Political Participation throughout the Electoral Cycle, A Good Practice Guide, UNDP, December 2015.

Erkulwater, Jennifer L. “Political Participation over the Life Cycle.” In The Unheavenly Chorus: Unequal Political Voice and the Broken Promise of American Democracy, edited by Kay L. Schlozman, Sidney Verba, and Henry E. Brady, 199-231. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012.

Garcia-Albacete, Gema M. 2014. Young People’s Political Participation in Western Europe: Continuity or Generational Change? Palgrave MacMillan

Marien, Sofie, Marc Hooghe, and Ellen Quintelier. “Inequalities in non-institutionalised forms of political participation: A multi-level analysis of 25 countries.” Political studies 58, no. 1 (2010): 187-213.

Melo, Daniela F., and Daniel Stockemer. “Age and political participation in Germany, France and the UK: A comparative analysis.” Comparative european politics 12, no. 1 (2014): 33-53.

PEW 2004 “A Global Generation Gap”

PEW Internet study:” Social Media & Mobile Internet Use among Teens and Young Adults. Millennials.” 2010. Lenhart, Amanda; Purcell, Kristen; Smith, Aaron; Zickuhr, Kathryn

Quintelier, Ellen. “Differences in political participation between young and old people.” Contemporary politics 13, no. 2 (2007): 165-180.

World Youth Report 2007, Young People’s Transition to Adulthood: Progress and Challenges, UN DESA, 2007

Youth and Political Participation (2013) UN

Visions of a Post-Pandemic Society via Street Protest in Poland: NCN Grant (2021/43/B/HS6/01155)

We are looking for hired a post-doctoral scholar and a graduate research assistant to be part of the research team led by dr. hab. Joshua K. Dubrow at IFiS PAN on the implementation of the international research project funded by the National Science Centre, Poland (2021/43/B/HS6/01155) entitled “The Construction of Post-Pandemic Society: Covid-19 Street Protest in Poland.” (see here for a popular description in Polish).

Here were the announcements, now closed: (a) Post-doc announcement on the IFiS PAN website; (b) Graduate Research Assistant announcement on the IFiS PAN website

About the NCN grant on post-pandemic society

Whereas theories in political sociology explain the causes of protest emergence, they do not explain well the consequences of protest. This is because many factors, besides protest, can lead to social change.

The Covid-19 pandemic challenges and pressures democratic institutions and social relations, and thus has been the subject of protests worldwide. The consequence of these challenges, pressures, and protests will be a post-pandemic society, but political sociology has yet to develop theories and methods to properly understand this near-future society’s form and direction.

This project makes the needed innovative leap that the actions and demands of street protest are subjective projections of the future, i.e. visions, which are a set of empirically observable paths toward social change. Protests, conducted by street-level actors, are attempted social constructions of reality. They reveal the hopes of social groups – e.g. various intersections consisting of precarious frontline occupations, women, and Covid skeptics, among others — and thus form a perceptual basis from which post-pandemic society will emerge.

Research questions

In this theory-driven qualitative project, we ask: In Poland, what are, and what drives, protesters’ visions of post-pandemic society?

How we will address the research questions

To address our research questions, we will construct and analyze a qualitative dataset that consists of the universe of protest events about the pandemic in Poland. We build these data from primary and secondary sources: extant protest event data, newspaper articles, and publicly available videos. From these sources we will construct detailed Protest Event Reports, from which we will extract the protestors’ visions of post-pandemic society. In addition, the project will interview ca. 20 representatives of NGOs in Poland on the Covid-19 protests and their visions of Polish society after the pandemic.

See also

Dall-E: Protesters holding signs, one line drawing

Political Equality in V-Dem: “Power distributed by gender”

In a previous post, we discussed how the Varieties of Democracy “V-Dem” project measures “political equality.” V-Dem is an expert survey. They guide the expert-respondents’ attention to particular groups’ political equality. These groups are: (a) socioeconomic position, (b) social groups, (c) gender, and (d) sexual orientation.

In this post, we discuss how they measure “Power distributed by gender.”

See also

Political Inequality in V-Dem: “Power distributed by socioeconomic position”

Political Equality in V-Dem: “Power distributed by social groups”

Political Equality in V-Dem: “Power distributed by sexual orientation”

V-Dem: “Power distributed by gender”

V-Dem asks, “Is political power distributed according to gender?”

The two groups are men and women.

As with the others thus far, the scale ranges from zero to four, upwardly toward equality. The two groups are compared only with respect to “political power.”

The difference between (0) and (1) is slight. At (0), men have a “near-monopoly.” At step (1), men have a “dominant hold” and women have “marginal influence” (note the conflation of the terms, power and influence). The difference between (1) and (2) is also slight. At Step (2) men have much more than women, which I guess is somewhat less than a “dominant hold.”

Only at Step (3) do we see a clearer difference, where men have “somewhat more.”

Finally, at Step (4), we do not have complete equality, but “roughly equal” amounts.

Apparently, according to V-Dem, that is the highest level of gender equality society can aspire to.

Political Equality in V-Dem: “Power distributed by sexual orientation”

In a previous post, we discussed how the Varieties of Democracy “V-Dem” project measures “political equality.” V-Dem is an expert survey. They guide the expert-respondents’ attention to particular groups’ political equality. These groups are: (a) socioeconomic position, (b) social groups, (c) gender, and (d) sexual orientation.

In this post, we discuss how they measure “Power distributed by sexual orientation.”

Political Inequality in V-Dem: “Power distributed by socioeconomic position”

Political Equality in V-Dem: “Power distributed by social groups”

Political Equality in V-Dem: “Power distributed by gender”

V-Dem: “Power distributed by sexual orientation”

V-Dem creates two groups. Group (A) are the “heterosexuals” and “lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) members of the polity who are not open about their sexuality.” Group (B) are LGBT who are open about their sexuality. V-Dem argues that these groups should be compared to one another in terms of their political power.

I do not follow the logic of the next two sentences: “Note that in comparing the political power of these two groups we are comparing their power per person. So, when we say that LGBT have less, equal, or more power than heterosexuals we mean relative to their share of the population (as near as this can be estimated).” What is “power per person”? Next, they argue that the LGBT should be compared to heterosexuals “relative to their share of the population.” Who does “their” refer to? Does it refer to Group A or Group B?

Step (0) is total exclusion except for voting (which “may” be). Step (1) is that LGBT has “much less power” but they can vote. Here, V-Dem introduces the term, “informal norms” to their political equality measure. These norms serve to keep LGBT from power. It can be argued that the informal norms also keep the other groups (socioeconomic, social, and gender) out of power. Step (2) is simply relational, and does not include the information of Step (1); it simply states that the power differential is “somewhat less.”

It is in Step (3) that we get a glimpse of what they meant about “power per person.” Here, LGBT and heterosexuals have “about the same” amount of power, “that is roughly proportional to their population.” So, if one group is 10 percent and the other is 90 percent of the population, does that mean that the 10 percent is about the same amount of power as the 90 percent? Or does it mean that the 10 percent is surely less political power because they are a numerical minority, but they still have some substantial political power?

Step (4), “LGBTs enjoy somewhat more political power than heterosexuals by virtue of greater wealth, education, and high level of organization and mobilization,” is notable for two reasons. First, unlike the other items, Step (4) is not political equality utopia, but rather it is political inequality. It also introduces a mechanism for political equality: wealth, education, organization, and mobilization. These mechanisms are missing from the other measures.

Political Equality in V-Dem: “Power distributed by social group”

In a previous post, we discussed how the Varieties of Democracy “V-Dem” project measures “political equality.” V-Dem is an expert survey. They guide the expert-respondents’ attention to particular groups’ political equality. These groups are: (a) socioeconomic position, (b) social groups, (c) gender, and (d) sexual orientation.

In this post, we discuss how they measure “Power distributed by social group.”

See also

Political Equality as Measured by Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem), which includes “power distributed by socioeconomic groups”

Political Equality in V-Dem: “Power distributed by gender”

Political Equality in V-Dem: “Power distributed by sexual orientation”

V-Dem: “Power distributed by social group”

V-Dem tells the expert to focus on “caste, ethnicity, language, race, region, religion, or some combination thereof” but not sexual orientation or socioeconomic status. They say nothing about “gender” as constituting social groups, here, probably because it comes next (“Power distributed by gender”).

V-Dem does acknowledge intersectionality but do not dwell much on it. After the list of social groups, they include the intersectionality-esque phrase, “some combination thereof.” Next, they write that “Social group identities are also likely to cross-cut, so that a given person could be defined in multiple ways, i.e., as part of multiple groups.” The “cross-cut” can be construed as an intersection.

We should not make too much of their attempt at intersectionality, however. The concept of identity, critical to intersectionality research (see Hughes and Dubrow 2017) is lost when they mention only that people can “be defined,” and makes no mention of how people define themselves. The next word after that sentence (that starts the next sentence) is “nonetheless,” defined as “in spite of that,” and thus lessens the impact of a potential accounting for intersectionality.

Clearly, intersectionality is not V-Dem’s purpose for this item.

Again, this is a zero to four scale that starts with one social group monopolizing power, and that this monopoly does not often change (it is “institutionalized”). V-Dem refers to this powerful “social group” as a “minority:” “Political power is monopolized by one social group comprising a minority of the population.” Minority, as it is often used in the social sciences, is usually about the relative power, status, and resources of a social group; here, they might mean numerical minority.

The next level toward equality (1) is several social groups, also being minorities, and also enjoying an institutionalized monopoly on power. The difference between (1) and (2) is that the several social groups are now a “majority:” “Political power is monopolized by several social groups comprising a majority of the population.” It is hard to see this as a step up towards equality. Whether the group is a numerical minority or a numerical majority does not seem to matter much for the degree of power they have. Thus, I see it as not a step up, but a step different.

When we get to (3), we get a very different step:

“Either all social groups possess some political power, with some groups having more power than others; or different social groups alternate in power, with one group controlling much of the political power for a period of time, followed by another – but all significant groups have a turn at the seat of power.”

There are several issues with this formulation, both for quantitative approaches to intersectionality research that feature power structures, and for political equality studies in general. First, the phrase, “all social groups possess some political power” is problematic because while V-Dem does define political equality (as a distributional thing) they do not define political power. Certainly, if we take the interdependency approach to political inequality, as Piven and Cloward (2005), does, we see the power process as not merely distributional one, but between opposing political actors.

For a discussion, see Definining and Measuring Power Resources.

Second, for social groups’ distribution of power V-Dem introduces a time element:

“different social groups alternate in power, with one group controlling much of the political power for a period of time, followed by another,”

which might mean that some groups have power at one point in time, and that is followed by another group in another time period. This time element is missing from their set-up to the issue of political equality and does not appear in the other “Power distributed by…” items. It is hard to know what an expert is to make of the sudden introduction of time.

Third, they introduce the term, “significant group,” as in: “all significant groups have a turn at the seat of power.” Since time is now an element, when is a group significant? When they have the power? Can a group be significant and not hold power before? Again, I do not know how the experts can make sense of the item.

Finally, point (4) is a social group political equality utopia, where “Social group characteristics are not relevant to politics.” There has never been a society where there are social groups and also where (and when) this utopia exists.