Powell, Jonathan, and Theresa Schroeder. Forthcoming. "Friends in Low Places?: The Conditional Effect of Trade on Women's Status." Studies in Comparative International Development.
Scholars of international relations have actively debated the consequences of globalization. Among this literature is growing attention to the status of women. While scholars have largely treated globalization as either improving or degrading women’s rights, we point to a conditional relationship. In contrast to assuming that the influence of globalization is invariably “good” or “bad,” we suggest that the character of the norms that will be diffused and adopted are dependent on the domestic norms of those a state is “globalized with.” We offer two expectations. First, states that tend to trade more with democracies should see a domestic improvement in the status of women. Second, we expect women’s status to improve when states trade more heavily with other states with high levels of women’s rights. An analysis of 184 countries from 1981 to 2008 provides strong support for the theory. Total trade flows and trade dependence only have negative associations with women’s status when conducted disproportionately with states that are autocratic or have low levels of women’s status.