Monday, November 14, 2016

Link between infectious disease prevalence and gender equality

Vaccination may promote gender equality.

According to scientists at Arizona State University and Waterloo University, infectious disease control helps promote gender equality. Psychologists were interested in the range of gender issues in the US and the world over the last century, and what influences shifts in equality. They narrowed the influential factors to consider to: infectious disease, resource scarcity, warfare, and climatic stress. Looking at pathogen prevalence data over the past 60 years, scientists found that these data predicted shifts in gender equality and were matched by decreases in childbirth at young ages. Together, this demonstrates the adoption of "slower life" strategies, which the authors link to the lower prevalence of gender inequality. When using data from the UK over the same period of time, their results were confirmed. The authors disclose that this is merely an association, but that the mirrored shifts in pathogen prevalence and equality suggest a causal link.

On the whole, the conclusions from this study make a lot of intuitive sense. When the life expectancy for humans was shorter due to widespread infectious disease, women were pressured to put aside career aspirations and higher education for raising a family. Both of these factors lead to gender inequality (lower wages, etc.). This has specific implications for women in developing and low-income regions of the world. With increased vaccination and better public health control to prevent the transmission of viruses and other infectious agents, women may be able to achieve greater gender equality.

-Katy Graham


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