Skip to content

Tracking Cross-Cultural Gender Bias in Reputations


Emily R Post, Shane J Macfarlan


While ethnologists have long noted that females lack access to social capital across cultures, the magnitude of this effect is rarely examined. Here, we investigate the nature of gender bias in one dimension of social capital, reputation. We extract data on reputations from the electronic Human Relations Area Files (eHRAF) database, specifically the societies in the Standard Cross-Cultural Sample, and analyze whether there are fewer instances of feminine reputation relative to masculine reputation. In addition, we assess whether aspects of social structure or institutional biases in the production of ethnography affect the rate at which feminine reputations occur. We find that (a) most reputations are gendered male; (b) patrilocality and matriliny increase the rate at which feminine reputations occur, while patriliny decreases their occurrence; and (c) as female authorship increases over time, inclusion of feminine subject matter increases, which resulted in a greater incidence of feminine reputations. Ultimately, our analyses highlight the need for increased focus on feminine subject matters and gendered social capital in the discipline of anthropology.

This publication can be viewed here

Last Updated: 3/24/21