Catherine Bolzendahl

Catherine Bolzendahl

Associate Professor
Department of Sociology
University of California, Irvine
4257 Social Science Plaza
c.bolzendahl [at] uci [dot] edu
Twitter: @C_Bolzendahl

Research Profile

As a quantitative political sociologist focusing primarily on gender from a cross-national perspective, I contribute to a deeper understanding of political change cross-nationally and over time, and of the meaning of family and gender in the political culture of the U.S. and among Western industrialized democracies. Through the common themes of gender, political inequality, public opinion, and family, my research extends and broadens theories of social policy development and gender inequality at the macro and micro levels.

My work can be characterized along three broad (though overlapping) lines: 1) The importance of gender equality for social policy investments and policy outcomes; 2) Changing notions of citizenship, political participation, and gender inequality; and 3) Family as a site of inequality on the basis of gender, political rights, and sexual orientation.

My work benefits from my affiliations with multiple interdisciplinary centers including: the Center for the Study of Democracy, the Center for Demographic and Social Analysis, the Center for Organizational Studies. I am also affiliated with the Master’s Program in Public Policy and the Department of Gender and Sexuality Studies.

My early scholarship focused on the importance of gender equality for welfare state spending and development and this has evolved to a focus on the gendered organization of legislative bodies. I continue to work on understanding public opinion regarding changing notions of citizenship, political participation and gender inequality across a variety of national and regional contexts, often in collaboration with co-author Hilde Coffé. I also have ongoing projects that view family as a site of inequality according to gender, race, political rights, and sexual orientation. My work has been published in a variety of outlets including Social Forces, Gender & Society, Social Politics, the European Sociological Review, the British Journal of Sociology, Social Science Quarterly, British Politics, Political Studies, and Sociological Perspectives.

My ongoing work focuses on better understanding the institutionalization of gender within political organizations and legislative institutions, with a recent publication in Gender & Society and a chapter in a forthcoming edited volume with colleagues Amy Alexander and Farida Jalalzai. Our book Measuring Women’s Political Empowerment across the Globe (2018; Palgrave) brings together an international group of scholars and is the first theoretical treatment of the diverse, multi-level, international issues at the center of measuring women’s political empowerment.

This work grew out of an international conference funded by and held at the Fritz Thyssen Foundation in Cologne, Germany. Other ongoing projects include an examination of comparative support for same-sex parents with Simon Cheng and Brian Powell and an examination of support for equal representation for women and Māori in New Zealand with Hilde Coffé.

thyssen(The Thyssen Group, 2015)

In 2010, my coauthored book Counted Out: Same Sex Relations and Americans’ Definitions of Family predicted the rapid acceptance of same-sex marriage, but also examined the cleavages and gendered differences in the acceptance of a variety of family forms (with Brian Powell, Claudia Geist, and Lala Carr Steelman).

Now in its second edition and in paperback, it has won book awards from the American Sociological Association, the Midwest Sociological Society and the North Central Sociological Association. Our findings have also been covered in a variety of news outlets including Newsweek, The New York Times, ABC News, MSNBC, and C-SPAN. It is now available in paperback, and related work is featured in a chapter in Families As They Really Are, 2nd Ed. 


I received my undergraduate degree from the University of Notre Dame in Sociology with a concentration in the Hesburgh Program in Public Service. I went on to receive my M.A. (2002) and Ph.D. (2006) in Sociology from Indiana University.


My childhood was spent moving between various Northwestern mountain states (Montana, Oregon, Washington, Northern California, and Idaho). The bulk of my youth was spent in rural Idaho, where I raised sheep, chickens, and rabbits, was active in 4-H, FFA, Business Professionals of America, and other youth leadership programs. I am a first-generation college student.

The Oregon Trail Interpretive Center (Baker City, Oregon)