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The weight of patriarchy? Gender obesity gaps in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA)

Costa-Font, Joan ORCID: 0000-0001-7174-7919 and Györi, Mario (2020) The weight of patriarchy? Gender obesity gaps in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Social Science and Medicine, 266. ISSN 0277-9536

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Identification Number: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2020.113353


The worldwide obesity epidemic has impacted women more heavily than men. These gender-based differences are particularly pronounced in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region where gender obesity gaps on average exceed 10 percentage points. This paper examines one of the explanations, namely the role of female empowerment on gender gaps in obesity. We study the effect of several measures of female empowerment including female labor market participation on gender obesity gaps over a time span of 41 years (1975-2016) in a sample of 190 countries. We document that after controlling for a number relevant controls, gender obesity gaps are only associated to measures of female empowerment in the MENA region but that this is not true worldwide. We then use an instrumental variable approach in order to illustrate that the causality runs indeed from empowerment, proxy it by both labor market and political participation to gender obesity gaps and not vice versa. Our results reveal that a one percentage point increase in female labor market participation (female MPs in national parliament) predicts a 0.2 (0.09) percentage point decrease in gender gaps in obesity in the MENA region

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2020 Elsevier Ltd
Divisions: Health Policy
Subjects: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Date Deposited: 04 Sep 2020 17:45
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2024 08:45

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