Nancy Burns, Kay Schlozman and Sidney Verba, The Private Roots of Public Action: Gender, equality and political participation (2001).

‘Summary: the book seek to explain the participation gender gap, given that females participate less than their male counterparts (even when a number of less formal activities are considered). Argues that men’s and women’s experiences in the private realm shape their engagement in the political realm.


Method: a quantitative analysis of US survey data (conducted for the study) from 1990.


Important Insight: differences in three factors – resources (time, money, and civic skills), recruitment (or mobilization, being in a social network that leads one to be targeted by requests for political activity), and psychological orientations to politics (especially political interest, information, and efficacy) – largely explain why men participate more than women. Specifically, it is how women differ from ne in the amount or level of these factors that matter and not how resources, recruitment opportunity, and psychological orientation have different consequences for men and women.






-the processes looked at here proceed differently within and between the main ‘racial’ groups – whites, African-Americans, and Latinos.

-in general, working mothers play a greater role in the voluntary sphere than home-based mothers.

-workforce participation and educational attainment help explain the gender gap (and this holds for different racial groups as well).

– egalitarian attitudes and practices in the home have implications for political participation, with both husbands and wives who feel autonomous in making domestic decisions more likely to engage in political activity.

-there is a strong association (for women, not for men) between a measure of the density of women in visible political positions and several indicators of psychological involvement with politics.

-almost all of the predictors of participation have similar effects for men and women.