Violence in American Society

War, Women, and the Violent Origins of Gender Equality

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States make war, but can war also reshape a state’s citizenry? In this article, I develop a theory of how mass warfare can lead to lasting cultural legacies especially as they relate to gender. I argue that mass warfare reshapes the gendered nature of labor markets by pulling women into the labor force. Complementarities between labor markets and attitudes suggest that increasing the public role of women in the labor force should have social spillovers into egalitarian beliefs around gender roles. These beliefs can persist through processes of vertical and horizontal transmission. To test the theory, I use the United States’ involvement in WWI by combining data on mobilization rates with historical census and contemporary public opinion data. Using an instrumental variables identification strategy, I establish that historical war mobilization caused individuals today to become pro-choice, liberal, and identify with the Democratic Party. Results from a series of auxiliary tests provide evidence consistent with the causal mechanisms. At least in the United States, the march toward gender liberalization has bloody origins.

How Violence Made America: Immigrants, Veterans, and Cultural Assimilation from 1860-1930

(Manuscript in Progress)

For much of American history, individuals of Irish, Italian, and Eastern European descent were not fully considered “white” or “American”; yet today, these groups are well assimilated into American culture. How did these groups eventually assimilate into the dominant group? Starting from Eugen Weber’s observation about the central role of the military in shaping national identity, I develop a theory that explains how mass military mobilization can cause groups on the dominant culture periphery to invest in becoming “white.” Participation in mass warfare can lead groups on the cultural periphery to assimilate into the cultural core by socializing individuals in these groups into having a greater sense of national identity and by the dominant group allowing these groups to advance up the cultural hierarchy in recognition for their military service. I test the theory using two cases within the United States: the U.S. Civil War and World War I. Preliminary results from an instrumental variables identification strategy exploiting plausibly exogenous variation in male age-cohort profiles indicate that men on the cultural periphery were more likely to become “white Americans” as proxied by citizenship petition rates, marriage with native-born whites, and naming conventions of their children. The theory and results contribute to our understanding of the origins of ethnic and national identity by highlighting the central role of mass violence in shaping race, citizenship, and social identity.

Works in Progress

These are projects for which I either have results for or am in the process of collecting data.

  • An Economic and Social History of the American Revolution (with Amy Uden)
  • Was Rosie Already a Riveter? WWI and the Rise of the Working Woman
  • The Frontier and American Political Development
  • The U.S. Civil War, Reconstruction, and the Politics of Collective Memory
  • Labor Militancy during the Gilded Age
  • Race, Industrialization, and the Rise of the Carceral State: Evidence from Three Southern U.S. States
  • The Distributive Politics of War (with Jon Rogowski)