Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Gender Discrimination, Gender Disparities in Obesity and Human Development

Ferretti, Fabrizio and Mariani, Michele (2017): Gender Discrimination, Gender Disparities in Obesity and Human Development. Published in: Heliyon , Vol. 3, No. 3 (15 March 2017): pp. 1-16.

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Measuring gender inequality and women’s empowerment is essential to understand the determinants of gender gaps, evaluate policies and monitor countries’ progress. With this aim, over the past two decades, research has mainly been directed towards the development of composite indices. The purpose of this paper is to introduce a new and interdisciplinary perspective to the current debate on measuring gender inequality in human development. As a starting point, we develop a simple macroeconomic model of the interdependence between human development and gender inequality. We then introduce a biometric indicator, based on the ratio of female to male body mass index, to measure women’s empowerment at the country level. Finally, by using the latest available data, we examine the ability of this biometric indicator to capture countries’ performance in achieving gender equality. We obtain five main results: 1) we provide a theoretical framework to explain the joint determination of human development and gender inequality; 2) we show how to use this framework to simulate the impact of exogenous shocks or policy changes; 3) we demonstrate that exogenous changes have a direct and a multiplier effect on human development and gender inequality; 4) we find that the distribution of obesity between the female and male populations represents a useful proxy variable for measuring gender equality at the country level; 5) finally, we use these results to integrate and develop existing knowledge on the ‘ecological’ approach to the overweight and obesity pandemic.

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