Date Thesis Awarded

5-2020

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)

Department

International Relations

Advisor

S.P. Harish

Committee Members

Claire McKinney

Fiona Shen-Bayh

Abstract

Gender differences in political behavior are well documented in democracies, but poorly understood in the context of liberalizing autocracies. In Singapore, the ruling party experienced both an internal and external reform over the course of five years. This paper uses natural language processing to analyze the impact of these two changes on parliamentary debates delivered by elected male and female politicians from the ruling party. The internal reform, a non-binding party gender quota, activates identities that differ within the party, namely gender identity. In contrast, the external reform, the opposition’s electoral victory, activates a unifying identity of party affiliation. Structural topic model evidence shows that the two types of shocks have different impacts on the use of gendered rhetoric and prevalence of gendered topics in political speech. Most importantly, men have much stronger responses to both shocks than women, due to differences in experience and risk aversion. This paper advances the literature on gender and authoritarianism and provides policy-relevant information on the impact of liberalizing reforms.

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