Monday, February 23, 2009

The Gender Gap In A Global Setting

This does not refer to the famous gender gap in earnings but to a study which compares men's and women's economic, educational, political and health outcomes by building all that into an index. The index measures outcomes (for example, the labor force participation rates of women and men) and not inputs (for example, the presence or absence of paid parental leave). What is interesting about this particular index is that it doesn't weigh the results by the economic development level of a country. Thus, a poor country can rank high on this index even if it doesn't offer many opportunities for girls to get educated as long as the opportunities are the same for boys and girls. Get it?

Now, no index of something like gender equality can be perfect and neither is this one. For example, it has no data on violence against women or the legal status of women, perhaps because those would be viewed as input measures and not outcome measures. Neither does the index tell us anything about general levels of woman-loathing in the various cultures, though those might in general correlate with the outcome measures it uses.

Having said that, here are the top (most gender-equal) ten countries in 2008:

1. Norway
2. Finland
3. Sweden
4. Iceland
5. New Zealand
6. Philippines
7. Denmark
8. Ireland
9. Netherlands
10. Latvia

The United States ranks 27th. Here are the bottom (least gender-equal) ten countries in 2008

1. Bahrain
2. Ethiopia
3. Turkey
4. Egypt
5. Morocco
6. Benin
7. Pakistan
8. Saudi Arabia
9. Chad
10. Yemen

Yemen ranks the lowest of the 140 countries in the study.

If you want to know more about the index and its parts, check out the original report. It includes versions which split the countries into subgroups by income levels and does the ranking within each subgroup, and versions which look at only employment or only education or only health or only political participation rates.