While a substantial literature explores gender differences in participation in
the United States, Commonwealth countries and Western Europe, little attention
has been given to gender’s impact on participation in the developing
world. These countries have diverse experiences with gender politics: some have
been leaders in suffrage reforms and equal rights, while, in others, divorce has
only recently been legalized. This article examines the relationship between
gender and participation in seventeen Latin American countries. Many core
results from research in the developed world hold in Latin America as well.
Surprisingly, however, there is no evidence that economic development provides
an impetus for more equal levels of participation. Instead, the most important
contextual factors are civil liberties and women’s presence among the
visible political elite.