The Main Squeeze: How a Constricting Marriage Market Leads to a Conservative Backlash (Available upon request)

Countries around the world are witnessing a rise in backlash against women’s empowerment. I examine this phenomenon by showing how the `marriage market squeeze’—when demographic shifts are accompanied by asymmetric demand for marital partners—contributes to gender backlash. Focusing on the South Korea, where gender has emerged as a prominent political cleavage, I explain how the inability to marry leads some men to become more resistant to women’s empowerment. I draw on insights from interviews with over 100 citizens and political elites to suggest that women’s empowerment is perceived as a particularly acute threat for men whose position in the family hierarchy (e.g., being the first-born son) binds them closer to patriarchal order as well as those from with lower perceived socioeconomic status. To provide evidence for this argument, I leverage a technological policy shock (the domestic production of ultrasonic diagnostic technology) to demonstrate how demographic shifts caused variation in in individuals’ exposure to the marriage market squeeze. I then employ a survey experiment to show that priming the marriage market squeeze heightens young men’s opposition to institutional mechanisms aimed at expanding women’s rights, such as legislative gender quotas, and further causes them to exhibit more conservative attitudes toward women’s roles in marriage. This study thus not only speaks to the complexities of the marriage market’s influence on gender politics, but also underscores the broader implications of demographic shifts on societal attitudes and political discourse.

Historical Analysis of South Korea’s State-Run Fertility Policies and their Effects on Women’s Economic and Political Participation

I examine the consequences of state-run fertility policies on women’s economic and political empowerment in South Korea. I use original data on the National Family Planning Program implemented during the authoritarian leadership of Park Chung Hee (1961-1979) and Chun Doo-hwan (1980-1988), and under Roh Tae-woo’s presidency (1988-1993), the first democratically elected president in South Korea. Central to this program were the Mothers’ Clubs, a network consisting of millions of women who were mobilized to encourage various contraceptive methods and promote the state’s ideal image of women regarding in relation to their role in both the household and the state. Reports show that by 1968, there were about 17,000 Mothers’ Clubs, with one club serving every two to three villages (Kim et al., 1972). This organization was touted as a key determinant that led to the “success” of the Family Planning Program in reducing the fertility rate: the average number of children born to women in “childbearing years” sharply declined from nearly 6.5 in the mid-1950s to around 1.5 in the mid-1990s. By interviewing women who were targeted by the program and who participated in the Mothers’ Clubs’ activities during this period, I document how these women perceived the program and their role in it, as well as how the programs influenced their decisions regarding fertility, and their labor market and political participation. Based on interviews, I find that women often utilized these programs to justify working outside the home and cultivate political connections. In addition to conducting interviews, I construct a novel dataset based on archival research into the Mother’s Clubs’ activities and thereby empirically examine the effects of the prevalence of the mother’s clubs on women’s economic and political empowerment as well as their limitations. By drawing attention to the voices of and records pertaining to these women, I demonstrate how women were able to leverage government policies to pursue their own interests, thereby challenging the state’s oppressive policies and extant patriarchal norms.


Selection Neglect and Political Misperceptions (with Matthew Brundage and Andrew T. Little) Forthcoming, Annual Review of Political Science.

Individuals, like researchers, often have to form beliefs about the political world from non-representative samples; e.g., their friends, what they see on TV, or content on social media. Substantial evidence indicates that many struggle to account for this selection problem and generally form beliefs as if what they observe is representative. In this review, we provide a formal typology of how this phenomenon of affects political beliefs. leads individuals to believe others’ traits and beliefs are closer to their own. The effect biases beliefs toward more visible or vocal groups. And the effect leads to excessive belief in extreme or unusual events. Selection neglect is a unifying way to understand disparate literatures on perceptions of the economy and demographics, beliefs about others’ beliefs, partisan media, and social media. Much empirical work is consistent with biased beliefs driven by selection neglect, but rarely directly tests this mechanism outside of lab settings. We discuss how future research can provide more direct evidence.

Working Papers

Growing Awareness Amid Growing Vulnerability: Assessing and Mitigating Labor Abuse of Migrant Domestic Workers (with Margaret Boittin, Elizabeth D. Herman, Cecilia Hyunjung Mo, and Sarah Rich-Zendel) – Revise and Resubmit, Journal of Law and Economics.

Levels of labor abuse of migrant domestic workers (MDWs) in Hong Kong are distressingly high. COVID-19 is exacerbating this issue. These high levels of exploitation are concomitant with high levels of awareness among MDWs regarding workers’ rights and labor regulations. As lack of awareness among this community is not a binding constraint on improving labor conditions, we find awareness-raising campaigns that provide information about labor laws have little impact on MDWs. Furthermore, MDWs express more tolerance for labor abuse than the general population, despite high levels of awareness regarding their rights: given insufficient regulatory protections and limited alternative labor options, MDWs view mistreatment as part and parcel of their job. Our findings on MDWs indicate that awareness-raising campaigns are no substitute for the more complex tasks of addressing the economic, legal, and political underpinnings of labor exploitation: the structurally-rooted conditions that cause vulnerability in the first place. However, the general population—individuals who may be abusing MDWs they employ, or could stop the occurrence of such abuse—display less knowledge about many MDW rights, and awareness-raising campaigns meaningfully increase that knowledge. Our findings thus suggest that well-targeted awareness-raising campaigns could still play a role in improving MDWs’ working conditions.

Examining Resentment: How Standardized Testing Motivates a Gendered Conservative Backlash (with Nicholas Kuipers). Pre-analysis Plan Study 1 Pre-analysis Plan Study 2

Women often do better than men academically. Looking at South Korea, we conduct an experiment to study whether this tendency drives a conservative backlash among young men. Compared to respondents who were not told their scores, revealing to men that they underperformed women on a standardized test led to an increase in conservative identification and support for the conservative political party. However, these same underperforming men are no more likely to agree that they faced discrimination. Our results challenge canonical models of group threat, grievance, and political action: knowledge of comparative underperformance may lead to a recognition on the part of young men that gendered inequalities on standardized tests do not reflect unfair treatment but may nonetheless activate group threat and push men to seek redress in the form of support for conservative political movements.

Reverting to Traditional Views of Gender During Times of Economic Anxiety: An Experimental Study in Nepal (with Margaret Boitton, Katrina Kosec, and Cecilia Mo).

Do individuals’ perceptions of their relative economic status affect their attitudes regarding gender roles in patriarchal societies? What role does hearing messages designed to increase support for women’s empowerment play in moderating these effects? Leveraging an original survey experiment in Nepal, we find that a prime conferring feelings of relative deprivation causes women to revert to traditional views of gender in economic decision-making; they become less supportive of women having equal control over household income, sharing household chores with men, and working outside the home. Women’s empowerment messaging does not attenuate these effects. Priming men to feel relatively deprived causes declines in gender-equitable economic and political views, but women’s empowerment messaging nullifies these effects. The results suggest that among populations feeling relatively deprived, regressive gender norms may take hold. However, light-touch efforts to spur support for women’s empowerment may counter some reversion to traditional views of gender.

Differential Penalties for Imperfections: Negative Campaigns and Underrepresentation in Politics (with Cecilia Mo). Pre-analysis Plan

Women and racial and ethnic minority politicians have been increasingly visible in U.S. politics. Nevertheless, white and male politicians make up a disproportionate share of elected office relative to their share of the general population. In this paper, we contribute to the growing research on how voter bias may harm minorities in political leadership, thereby hindering greater gender and racial representation in the United States. Specifically, we examine if American voters hold female and racial or ethnic minorities to a different standard compared to their male and white counterparts. We employ a novel experiment, focusing on how the sequential introduction of candidate flaws affect voters’ assessments. We study whether voters’ reactions to flaws differ by candidate gender and race. We find that individuals are less likely to punish women, and that punishment for men relative to women increase with the number of flaws. We also find that voters are less likely to punish candidates who are ethnic and racial minorities. However, we find that voters exhibit different attitudes by their party affiliations. We find that Democrats are consistently more forgiving of the minority candidates, including both women and racial minorities. Republicans are also more forgiving of female candidates than of male candidates, although to a lesser extent than Democrats. However, we find that Republicans have more negative attitudes toward racial minorities, especially candidates who are both women and of color. These voters are likely to provide harsher assessments of racial minority female candidates compared to White female candidates, when candidates violate leadership expectations. Our results highlight the increasing value that minority leaders bring to voters. Voters do seem to care about diversity in representation, an issue that has become extremely salient in recent years. However, we find that this is not true for Republican voters. Although Republicans tend to be slightly more forgiving of female candidates compared to male candidates, they are more hostile toward candidates of color—especially female candidates of color.

Newer Work in Progress

The Marriage Market Squeeze and Conditional Support for Migrants (with Cecilia Hyunjung Mo)

Traditional Gender Norms and Support for Authoritarianism in South Korea (with Leo Arriola and Danny Choi)

Knowledge and Pride in the Nation: When Knowledge Leads to Increased Support for Women’s Empowerment (with Cecilia Hyunjung Mo)

Socialization During the MeToo Era (with Seungjoon Yoo)

Increasing Preference for Daughters? Shifting Preferences and Causes in East Asia (with Bianca Chiu)

Gendered Economic Shocks and a Conservative Backlash in South Korea

Policy Reports

Experimental Interventions Using Mass Media to Change Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices Around Vulnerability to Forced Labor in Hong Kong. (with Margaret Boittin, Elizabeth D. Herman, Cecilia Hyunjung Mo, and Sarah Rich-Zendel) United States Department of Labor Report, 2020.

The Long-Term Effects of Awareness Campaigns on Human Trafficking Vulnerability: The Case of Nepal. (with Margaret Boittin, Elizabeth D. Herman, Cecilia Hyunjung Mo, and Sarah Rich-Zendel) United States Department of Labor Report. 2020.