Country: United States (Texas)
Ashley English is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of North Texas. Prior to joining the faculty at UNT, she earned her Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Minnesota. Dr. English's current research agenda brings theories of intersectionality together with scholarship about bureaucratic politics in one of the first projects to examine how “women’s political interests” are constituted in the rulemaking process.
Dr. English is broadly interested in gender, women’s representation, interest groups, bureaucratic politics, and public policy. Her most recent paper (with Kathryn Pearson and Dara Strolovitch), “Who Represents Me? Race, Gender, Partisan Congruence and Representational Alternatives in a Polarized America” is forthcoming in Political Research Quarterly and her work has also appeared in Politics & Gender, Electoral Studies and the Journal of Women, Politics & Policy.
Prior to entering academia, Dr. English worked as a researcher at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research in Washington, DC for four years. She also received her MA in Political Science from the University of Minnesota in 2013, her MA in Public Policy with a Concentration in Women’s Studies from The George Washington University in 2010, and her BA in political science from Williams College in 2004.
Gender and Politics
Political Parties and Interest Groups
Representation and Electoral Systems
Leading up to the 2016 election, single women were heralded as the “hot” new constituency. With unmarried women posed to comprise approximately half of the population of adult women and 23% of the electorate (Traister 2016), pundits claimed that the rising number of single women could transform American politics. Building on this recent enthusiasm about single women, this study provides one of the first systematic analyses of how contemporary women’s organizations represent single women by analyzing 1,021 comments that women’s organizations submitted to rule makers between 2007 and 2013. Using automated text analyses and a series of statistical analyses, it shows that despite the rising numbers of American single women, women’s organizations only very rarely explicitly refer to single women during their comment writing campaigns, preferring to highlight the experiences of married mothers instead. Moreover, it shows that the political context unexpectedly has little to no effect on the degree to which women’s organizations focus on single women, possibly because they so rarely mention them at all. Altogether, the results suggest that for single women to become politically powerful, they will need more than just large numbers; they may also need niche organizations that can help them organize and articulate their broader policy needs.
The belief among citizens that their views are represented is essential to the legitimacy of American democracy, but few studies have explicitly examined which political actors Americans feel best represent them. Using data from the 2006 Cooperative Congressional Election Study, we ask new questions about whether respondents who share a partisan, racial, or gender identification with their members of Congress (MCs) feel those members best represent them. Although the framers designed the House so that individuals’ own MCs would be their closest and most responsive representatives, a majority of respondents turn to other actors for representation. Partisanship is a key reason for this attenuated connection, as respondents who do not share a partisan identification with their MCs are more likely than those who do to rely on their party’s congressional leaders or advocacy organizations for representation instead. Sharing a racial identification with one’s own MC can strengthen representational connections as respondents who share a racial identity with their MCs are significantly more likely than respondents who do not to indicate that their MC represents them “the most.” These results shed light on enduring questions about the significance of symbolic representation and its link to partisanship and descriptive representation.
Though the concept of intersectionality has been in circulation for nearly 30 years and women’s organizations have long been criticized for failing to prioritize the concerns of women of color, poor women, and LGBTQ women, more research is needed to determine precisely why women’s organizations do and do not discuss those intersectional identities during policy debates. This study analyzes 1,021 comments that women’s organizations submitted to rulemakers to test a series of hypotheses about how women’s organizations’ references to women’s intersectional identities increase or decrease depending on the organization’s primary constituency and ideology, the proposed rule’s target population, and other features of the policy-making context. Using automated text analysis and a series of models, it shows that women’s organizations do discuss intersectionally marginalized women in their comments. However, not all subgroups of women are equally represented during the process. Women’s organizations focus on women’s sexual orientations and gender identities more than their races, ethnicities, nationalities, or socioeconomic statuses. Intersectionally marginalized women also tend to receive the most attention when commenters are from organizations that are explicitly focused on representing intersectionally marginalized women and when bureaucrats include references to intersectionally marginalized women in their proposed rules.
Extant women & politics literature suggests males are perceived to be better leaders than females. Men are more likely than women to be perceived as competent, decisive, and capable of handling crises–all important qualities for elected officials. This research suggests, on average, female elected officials are viewed as less competent than their male colleagues. Yet, extant literature typically examines perceived competency of elected officials in a vacuum. Notably, the research does not take in to account how the gender and quality of opposing candidates may influence the perceived competency of an elected official. In this research note, we address this limitation by examining evaluations of members of the U.S. House (henceforth MC) relative to the evaluations of their challenger. We find gender differences are larger and more pronounced when we compare male and female MCs competing against quality challengers.
Feminist organizations, like many other interest groups and advocacy organizations, have increasingly turned to the rulemaking process to create meaningful policy change. Though rulemaking is an attractive policymaking venue for feminists because it provides them with an opportunity to bypass congressional gridlock and interact with more women policymakers than they might in Congress, the existing literature does not address how and when feminist organizations’ participation in the rulemaking process is influential. I coded the content of a sample of the 5,860 comments that the Department of Education (ED) received in response to its 2004 proposed rule that allowed for public single-sex education programs and ED’s justifications for its proposed and final rules to examine this question for the first time. Specifically, I ask if findings from the rulemaking literature that show that organizations can encourage bureaucrats to change their proposed rules when they submit large numbers of high-quality, homogenous, opposing comments hold for feminist organizations in a redistributive policy area. My findings indicate that when bureaucrats receive multiple sets of high-quality homogenous comments, they are more likely to side with the subsets of commenters that support their initial proposals and/or partisan and ideological positions.
This article provides an overview of the basic facts of old age in the United States, including a description of the retirement programs commonly available to the elderly and an examination of gender differences in the retirement experience. Women’s greater economic insecurity relative to men during the retirement years is closely linked to their different work experiences, including differences in earnings, years of employment, Social Security earnings records, and likelihood of pension participation and receipt. Decisions about marriage, childbirth, and caregiving, as well as societal expectations and arrangements, also affect women’s retirement security. Women are also disproportionately affected by risks associated with their longer lifespans and chronic health conditions that often result in women outliving their income and assets, losing access to a spouse’s resources, paying high out-of-pocket medical expenses, and requiring long-term care. Many more older women than men live alone and among the elderly the poverty rate is highest among single women living alone. After exploring the sources of women’s retirement insecurity, the article concludes with brief recommendations for reform. The aging of the baby boom and the global financial crisis of 2008 combine to raise questions about the future of retirement. The authors argue it is important for policymakers and advocates to work to improve retirement security in the United States and strengthen Social Security for all, preserving those features of Social Security that work well for older women, while also reforming the outdated aspects of the Social Security system that disadvantage women.