New Measure for Gender Equity

The Basic Index of Gender Inequality focuses on education, health, and life satisfaction.

RESEARCHERS HAVE DEVELOPED a new way to measure gender inequality that they say is fairer to both men and women and that presents a simplified but more accurate picture of well-being than previous tools. The new Basic Index of Gender Inequality (BIGI) focuses on three factors—educational opportunities, healthy life expectancy, and overall life satisfaction. It was created by David Geary, Curators Distinguished Professor of Psychological Sciences in the College of Arts and Science at the University of Missouri in Columbia, and Gijsbert Stoet, professor of psychology at the University of Essex in the U.K.

After calculating BIGI scores for 134 nations, representing 6.8 billion people, Geary and Stoet found that men are more disadvantaged than women in 91 countries, compared with a relative disadvantage for women in 43 countries. They found the most developed countries in the world come closest to achieving gender equality, albeit with a slight advantage for women. In the least developed countries, women nearly always fall behind men, largely because they have fewer opportunities to get good educations. The picture is more mixed in countries with medium levels of development, with nearly the same number of countries where women fall behind as countries where men fall behind. The men’s disadvantage is largely due to shorter healthy lifespans.

Previously, one of the most established measures of national gender inequality was the Global Gender Gap Index, which has been used by academics and policymakers since it was introduced in 2006. But it does not measure factors that put men at a disadvantage, such as harsher punishments for the same crime, compulsory military service, and a higher number of occupational deaths.

The researchers aim to help policymakers improve quality of life for both men and women. Says Stoet, “Internationally, improvements in gender parity may be reached by focusing on education in the least developed nations and by focusing on preventative healthcare in medium and highly developed nations.”

Download “A simplified approach to measuringnational gender inequality,” published January 3, 2019, in PLOS ONE.