Many social settings are gender-segregated: At the workplace, in higher education, and in friendship cliques, women and men typically encounter peers of their own gender. This separation slows down efforts toward gender equality because women and men get access to different resources through their social networks and engage in gender-typed behaviors and activities. But much less is known about gender segregation in civic life. Voluntary associations, such as sports clubs, community associations, or leisure groups, are often viewed as places that bring communities together and equalize access to social resources. However, previous research suggests – often based on highly simplified figures – that voluntary associations are segregated along gendered lines as well: Women and men are usually involved in different types of associations and perform different voluntary work, often matching broader gender stereotypes and extending traditional patterns of labor division to community life. For example, while women pull together in school- or care-related organizations, men more often meet each other in sports clubs and local political parties.
“The surest way to get a player to come back to the game is to make it a habit, a part of their life.”
— A game designer and product manager
Much of consumption, which includes the acquisition, appreciation, and use of goods and services, is habitual. On any typical day, millions of people engage in various activities available on their Apple or Android smartphones, communicate with friends and family through social networks such as Twitter, and use popular streaming services such as Netflix and Spotify to entertain themselves. Reinvigorated by the rise of social media, digital platforms, and artificial intelligence, and recently jolted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the recurrent and habitual transactions of individual consumers with provider firms are a mainstay of the market economy.
Survey researchers and pundits alike frequently lament the fact that citizens know too little about politics. Furthermore, public opinion polling consistently suggests that women appear to be less knowledgeable about politics than men. But how can we measure political sophistication in the first place? And more importantly, how does our measurement approach impact our conclusions about citizen competence about politics? The conventional approach to measure political sophistication in surveys focuses on multiple-choice questions assessing people’s ability to recall information about political institutions and officeholders. (For instance, the American National Election Study routinely asks questions such as, “Do you happen to know which party currently has the most members in the U.S. Senate?”) These types of factual knowledge questions—which have been used in scores of surveys for academic research and polling—have important limitations. For instance, determining a comprehensive set of knowledge questions is far from trivial since it involves strong assumptions about what information is necessary for people to be politically competent. Furthermore, knowledge questions vary in difficulty across demographic segments and can therefore introduce systematic measurement error when comparing groups of respondents.
Work in Progress is a project of the American Sociological Association's Sections on Organizations, Occupations, and Work, Economic Sociology, Labor and Labor Movements, and Inequality, Poverty, and Mobility