Gender Linked Fate, Race/Ethnicity, and the Marriage Gap in American Politics

Date01 September 2017
Published date01 September 2017
Subject MatterArticles
/tmp/tmp-18DxTKiB36A8F8/input 702499PRQXXX10.1177/1065912917702499Political Research QuarterlyStout et al.
Political Research Quarterly
2017, Vol. 70(3) 509 –522
Gender Linked Fate, Race/Ethnicity, and
© 2017 University of Utah
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the Marriage Gap in American Politics
DOI: 10.1177/1065912917702499
Christopher T. Stout1, Kelsy Kretschmer1, and Leah Ruppanner2
In this study, we explore the predictors of gender linked fate with a focus on marital status for different racial/ethnic
groups. We argue that marriage alters women’s perceptions of self-interest by institutionalizing their partnerships with
men and consequently leading women to feel less connected to other women. We assess our hypothesis using the
2012 American National Election Study. While we find that married white women and Latinas have significantly lower
levels of linked fate than unmarried women of the same race/ethnicity, we find no such relationship for black women.
We then explore the implications of these findings by examining the role of gender linked fate in explaining political
differences among married and unmarried women using mediation analysis. Ultimately, we find that differences in
perceptions of linked fate explain a significant amount of the variation in political ideology and partisanship for white
and Latina women.
linked fate, partisanship, marriage gap, race/ethnicity, intersectionality
Linked fate is one’s identification with a group and the
scholars have hypothesized that married women will
perception that one’s life chances are tied to the success
have more conservative views on gender-related issues
of that group (Dawson 1994). According to several stud-
than will unmarried women (Bolzendahl and Myers
ies, linked fate plays a crucial role in structuring the polit-
2004). In turn, marriage may lead women to express
ical activities and behaviors of blacks, Latinos, and Asian
fewer connections with other women (i.e., lower gender
Americans (see Dawson 1994; Junn and Masuoka 2008;
linked fate).
Sanchez and Masuoka 2010; Sanchez and Vargas 2016;
What is more, these patterns may vary significantly by
Stokes 2003; Tate 1993; Wright Austin, Middleton, and
race. Most, if not all, previous research exploring the
Yon 2011). While a robust literature explores the signifi-
marriage gap in several areas has failed to examine
cance of linked fate for several underrepresented racial
whether the effects of marriage are constant for white,
groups, the role of gender linked fate is conspicuously
black, and Latina women (Bolzendahl and Myers 2004;
absent. This is surprising given the breadth of feminist
Kingston and Finkel 1987; Stoker and Jennings 1995).
scholarship documenting how gender structures life
Given that women of various racial/ethnic backgrounds
chances and identity (Ely 1995; Ferree 1990). This omis-
have different experiences with both marriage and gender
sion in the literature raises the questions, which women
discrimination, there is good reason to expect that the
are most likely to have higher levels of gender linked
intersection of race and marital status will have unique
fate, and do those differences matter for women’s politi-
effects on perceptions of gender linked fate (Bedolla and
cal attitudes?
Scola 2006; Hancock 2014; hooks 1981).
We gain insight into these questions from previous
Differences in gender linked fate based on marital sta-
studies that explore differences in women’s attitudes
tus are important because they may help us understand
about gender roles (Bolzendahl and Myers 2004; Chaney,
why public opinion polls often capture divergent political
Alvarez, and Nagler 1998; Kingston and Finkel 1987;
Stoker and Jennings 1995). Much of this research identi-
1Oregon State University, Corvallis, USA
fies a consistent “marriage gap,” whereby married women
2The University of Melbourne, Australia
tend to have lower levels of gender consciousness than
their unmarried counterparts (Stoker and Jennings 1995).
Corresponding Author:
Christopher T. Stout, Oregon State University, 300 Bexell Hall,
Because marriage alters women’s perceptions of self-
Corvallis, OR, USA.
interest by institutionalizing their partnerships with men,

Political Research Quarterly 70(3)
patterns between married and unmarried women. There is
and Tate 1998; Sanchez and Vargas 2016). Group con-
reason to believe that perceptions of gender linked fate
sciousness refers to a personal and internalized group
structure political orientations. Given that the Republican
identity and a political awareness of the group’s position
Party has been perceived as unfriendly to women, women
in society (Miller et al. 1981). Linked fate refers to the
with higher levels of gender linked fate should be the
sense that an individual’s life chances are inextricably
least supportive of a conservative platform (Bolzendahl
tied to those who share some similar characteristics.
and Myers 2004). Differences in voting behavior between
Linked fate differs from group consciousness in that it
married and unmarried women may be a consequence of
emerges from perceptions about opportunities. A sense of
varying levels of gender linked fate. While previous
linked fate relies on a group orientation when evaluating
research has identified a marital gap in politics, less has
social and political contexts, with a collective “we” in
been done to empirically investigate the social patterns
mind, rather than a view that one’s outcomes in life are
beneath these differences.
removed from the well-being of the group.
In this paper, we explore whether married and unmar-
A strong group consciousness is generally a precursor
ried women of different racial/ethnic backgrounds differ
to developing a sense of linked fate (Gay and Tate 1998;
in their levels of gender linked fate. To accomplish this
Tate 1993). However, high levels of gender group con-
goal, we first draw from the research on marriage and
sciousness do not necessarily mean an individual has
family to discuss why marriage may influence percep-
high levels of gender linked fate (Gay and Tate 1998).
tions of a common fate among women of different racial/
An individual can have strong feelings of identification
ethnic backgrounds. We then assess our research ques-
as a woman and have a strong recognition that women
tions using the 2012 American National Election Study
are a subjugated group in the United States whose inter-
(ANES). We find that for whites and Latinas, married
ests should be better represented (i.e., gender group con-
women have significantly lower levels of linked fate than
sciousness), but not perceive her own opportunities in
single (i.e., never married) and divorced women. We also
life as tied to other women (i.e., gender linked fate). In
find that single black women do not report higher levels
addition to being theoretically different, Sanchez and
of gender linked fate than married black women after
Vargas (2016) use principal components analysis to
controlling for several confounding factors. Instead,
demonstrate that group consciousness and linked fate are
divorced black women are the group with the highest lev-
statistically distinct and have different political and
els of gender linked fate relative to their married and
social consequences. Moreover, our own analysis of the
single counterparts.
correlation between gender consciousness and gender
Based on this result, we examine whether differences
linked fate in the Supplemental Appendix reveals a sig-
in gender linked fate among married and unmarried
nificant but relatively weak correlation between the two
women have any implications for American politics. In
forms of identity.1
particular, we explore whether differences in gender
linked fate among women with different marital statuses
Gender and Marital Status: Shifts in Gender
can help us understand why unmarried women are more
Linked Fate
liberal and democratic than their married counterparts.
Using mediation analysis (Imai et al. 2011), we find that
There is a substantial body of research demonstrating that
variation in perceptions of linked fate explains a signifi-
marriage alters individuals’ perceptions of the world and,
cant amount of differences in political ideology and par-
in turn, changes their attitudes. Several longitudinal stud-
tisanship for single and married Latinas and for unmarried
ies show women become more conservative on a number
and married white women. We also find that gender
of gender-related issues and perceive themselves as hav-
linked fate performs as well or better than other hypoth-
ing less in common with other women after they get mar-
esized predictors of the marriage gap in political prefer-
ried (Kingston and Finkel 1987; Stoker and Jennings
ences for whites and Latinas. As a result, differences in
1995). Marriage scholars hypothesize that these differ-
gender linked fate among married and unmarried women
ences occur because of both changing interests and
are important for understanding the political marriage
changing social networks that often come with marriage
gap in American politics.
(Kalmijn 2003).
Unmarried women shoulder disproportionate levels of
Gender Linked Fate

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