Women's status and carbon dioxide emissions: A quantitative cross-national analysis

Soc Sci Res. 2012 Jul;41(4):965-76. doi: 10.1016/j.ssresearch.2012.03.008. Epub 2012 Mar 17.


Global climate change is one of the most severe problems facing societies around the world. Very few assessments of the social forces that influence greenhouse gas emissions have examined gender inequality. Empirical research suggests that women are more likely than men to support environmental protection. Various strands of feminist theory suggest that this is due to women's traditional roles as caregivers, subsistence food producers, water and fuelwood collectors, and reproducers of human life. Other theorists argue that women's status and environmental protection are linked because the exploitation of women and the exploitation of nature are interconnected processes. For these theoretical and empirical reasons, we hypothesize that in societies with greater gender equality there will be relatively lower impacts on the environment, controlling for other factors. We test this hypothesis using quantitative analysis of cross-national data, focusing on the connection between women's political status and CO(2) emissions per capita. We find that CO(2) emissions per capita are lower in nations where women have higher political status, controlling for GDP per capita, urbanization, industrialization, militarization, world-system position, foreign direct investment, the age dependency ratio, and level of democracy. This finding suggests that efforts to improve gender equality around the world may work synergistically with efforts to curtail global climate change and environmental degradation more generally.