Economic Diversification and Climate Change in the Middle East

Countries in the Arabian Gulf occupy an unusual position globally in terms of global climate change. They are not only the world’s top oil producers but are also among the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Recognizing this, most Gulf countries have published ambitious plans to move away their economies from the oil industry. Yet it remains unclear whether such plans will be enacted given how fundamentally they will reshape economic and social life, including potentially upending conservative gender roles in the region. Oil wealth impedes gender equality by giving men better employment opportunities than women (Ross 2009), which contributes to the region’s poor record on women’s rights. Moving away from oil may therefore increase employment opportunities for women and upend traditional gender relations. In this research, we explore how economic diversification shapes support for authoritarian regimes through gendered patterns of economic anxiety. The main question is whether economic diversification threatens men’s identities by disempowering them economically, and thus undermines support for governments and the costly policies that they need to undertake to prevent the worst repercussions of climate change. We are testing our core hypotheses through survey experiments that we currently fielding in Oman and Kuwait with nationally representative samples. Additionally, we are designing randomized behavioral games that test men’s willingness to cooperate with female enumerators as a measure for how economic anxieties shapes support for traditional gender roles and regime support. We plan to run these behavioral games in spring of 2024.