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How Cities Erode Gender Inequality: A New Theory and Evidence from Cambodia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)961-984
Number of pages24
JournalGender and Society
Issue number6
Early online date2 Aug 2019
Accepted/In press18 Jun 2019
E-pub ahead of print2 Aug 2019
Published1 Dec 2019


King's Authors


Support for gender equality has increased globally, and studies of this trend usually examine individual- and/or country-level factors. However, this overlooks subnational variation. City-dwellers are more likely to support gender equality in education, employment, leadership, and leisure. This article investigates the causes of rural–urban differences through comparative, qualitative research in Cambodia. The emergence of rural garment factories presents a quasi-natural experiment to test the theory that female employment enhances support for gender equality. Rural female employment may diminish rural–urban differences in gender inequalities or there may be other important aspects of city-living (beyond female employment) that amplify support for gender equality. Drawing on Cambodian fieldwork, I suggest that cities raise the opportunity costs of the male breadwinner model, increase exposure to women in socially valued roles, and provide more associational avenues to collectively contest established practices. Interests, exposure, and association reinforce a snowballing process of social change. By investigating the causes of subnational variation, I advance a new theory of growing support for gender equality.

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