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Working paper

Historical Legacies and Gender Attitudes in the Middle East

ERF Working Paper Series. J1. Economic Research Forum, 2017. No. 1105.
Veronica Kostenko, Ponarin E., Shteiwi M., Strebkova O.
This paper focuses on transformations of gender attitudes in a set of Arab societies covered by the Arab Barometer. We analyze age and cohort differences in thirteen countries using generalized additive modeling (GAM). We argue that stagnation or even retrogression of gender attitudes in some societies may be caused in part by an ideological shift of the 1970s–1980s, from largely secular and socialist-oriented national movements of the 1950s–1960s to the more conservative period often associated with the rise of political Islam. On the other hand, the youngest cohorts in those societies that have always promoted conservative gender attitudes are getting somewhat more liberal, although they remain slightly less gender egalitarian compared to other societies. We test our assumptions using the example of Yemen that was divided into two parts between 1967 and 1990: The South supported by the Soviet Union and the North influenced by Saudi Arabia and the Western bloc. We trace the support for gender egalitarianism across generations in the two parts of Yemen and show that the secular socialist ideology made a profound imprint on the attitudes of a whole generation and made those who were in their twenties back in the 1960s more egalitarian than the young people these days. The same is true for the other countries of the region that had some socialist experience.