The Gender Digital Divide and Gender Gaps in Collective Action

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[Joint work with Emily Rains, Jakana Thomas, and Jingwen Wu]

Existing research finds both that women are less likely to protest than men and cellphone access increases protest participation. Yet, no work asks whether gulfs in mobile ownership between men and women can, in part, explain protest turnout gaps. Our research examines this relationship, showing that the growing gender digital divide in cellphone ownership exacerbates the participation gap. Using survey data from 37 African countries, we show that women protest significantly less than men where they own relatively fewer cellphones. We probe one mechanism underpinning this relationship demonstrating that women who do not own cellphones face a political information disadvantage that limits their engagement. Our study suggests unequal cellphone access further entrenches women’s position on the political margins.