Academy Workshop – Nov 2023

“The Influence of Culture on Gender Equality: Analyzing Public Support for Women’s Rights”
with Andreina Thoma, SNF Agora Student Fellow

Does culture affect popular support for gender equality? While it is widely assumed that culture influences gender outcomes, showing its causal effect is challenging due to the need to isolate culture from intervening factors, such as institutions and economic conditions. This paper addresses this challenge by exploiting a unique setting allowing to separate cultural effects from other factors shaping citizens’ preferences. Specifically, Thoma takes advantage of Switzerland’s linguistic border, which sharply divides French and German language regions. Using language as a proxy for culture, Thoma employs a fuzzy regression discontinuity design to demonstrate the influence of culture on local support for women’s rights. Analyzing fourteen popular votes on a diverse set of gender-relevant issues between 1959 and 2014, Thoma finds significantly greater support for gender equality among French-speaking voters than German-speaking voters. Additional analyses using qualitative and quantitative data reinforce the plausibility of culture influencing citizens’ support for gender equality.

Join us in the SNF Agora Institute conference room (N325F) in the Wyman Park Building on the JHU Homewood Campus or via Zoom at

This event is limited to JHU faculty, fellows, students, and staff.