Date of Award


Degree Type

Closed Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Political Science

First Advisor

Michael Herb - Chair

Second Advisor

Charles Hankla

Third Advisor

William Downs

Fourth Advisor

Scott Graves


What is the relationship between gender inequality and resource wealth in the Middle East? Why has progression of women’s rights in the Middle East advanced at a comparatively slower rate than most of the world? Conventional wisdom attributes the continued significant gaps in gender equality to the region’s strong patriarchic culture associated with Islam. However, recent statistical analysis conducted by Michael Ross suggests a correlation between oil production and women’s rights. This thesis examines an emerging schism in the literature and evaluates the relationship between social and political emancipation of women relative to Islam and oil wealth. The findings of this examination conclude that Ross’s theoretical framework is incomplete: Islamic law is a key causal mechanism left out of his examination. Furthermore, Islamic law has a more comprehensive negative impact on women’s social and political rights than oil wealth.