Gender equality, development, and cross-national sex gaps in life expectancy

Carla Medalia, Virginia W. Chang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Female life expectancy exceeds male life expectancy in almost every country throughout the world. Nevertheless, cross-national variation in the sex gap suggests that social factors, such as gender equality, may directly affect or mediate an underlying biological component. In this article, we examine the association between gender equality and the sex gap in mortality. Previous research has not addressed this question from an international perspective with countries at different levels of development. We examine 131 countries using a broad measure of national gender equality that is applicable in both Less Developed Countries (LDCs) and Highly Developed Countries (HDCs). We find that the influence of gender equality is conditional on level of development. While gender equality is associated with divergence between female and male life expectancies in LDCs, it is associated with convergence in HDCs. The relationship between gender equality and the sex gap in mortality in HDCs strongly relates to, but is not explained by, sex differences in lung cancer mortality. Finally, we find that divergence in LDCs is primarily driven by a strong positive association between gender equality and female life expectancy. In HDCs, convergence is potentially related to a weak negative association between gender equality and female life expectancy, though findings are not statistically significant.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)371-389
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Comparative Sociology
Volume52
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2011

Keywords

  • cross-national
  • development
  • gender equality
  • life expectancy
  • sex differences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)

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