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

Abstract: 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.


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

Working Papers

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

Abstract: 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. 

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). – Manuscript under Review

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

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.

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.