Researchers often attribute diminishing gender inequality to economic development. When different aspects of gender inequality are examined, however, evidence points to both cross-national convergence as well as persistent (or even growing) heterogeneity in women's status. To make sense of this contradiction, we examine the extent to which culture moderates the relationship between economic development and gender inequality. We consider two dimensions of gender inequality, gender gaps in educational attainment and women's share of parliament, using data for 150 countries between 1980 and 2010. We find convergence toward greater equality in education, independently of economic development. But cross-cultural differences in female political representation persist or even grow as a function of economic development. Our results imply that economic development is not a direct pathway to greater gender equality. Rather, cultural legacies play an important role in shaping developmental trajectories.

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