A new study of 6.8 billion people worldwide found that men face more discrimination than women in 91 out of 134 countries, and the researchers say their methods provide a "more complete assessment of gender equality."
What are the details?
Authors Gijsbert Stoet of the University of Essex and David Geary of the University of Missouri-Columbia developed what they call "a simplified approach to measuring national gender inequality."
In the abstract of the study, the researchers argue that their method "better captures variation in gender inequality than other measures, with inclusion of outcomes that can be favorable or unfavorable to either sex, not simply unfavorable to women," taking aim at the widely used Global Gender Gap Index touted by the World Economic Forum.
Stoet and Geary point out that many issues that disproportionately impact men and boys are either understudied or completely ignored, writing that, "apart from political agendas, research on gender inequality has also exclusively focused on issues highlighted in the women's rights movement."
Using their "Basic Index of Gender Inequality" method, which includes statistics such as prison populations, criminal punishment, compulsory military service, suicide, occupational deaths, substance abuse, homelessness and other issues where men are often disproportionately impacted — the researchers found that overall, men actually face more discriminatory treatment than women on a global scale.
The authors determined:
Countries with very high levels of human development are closest to gender parity, and deviations from this typically favor women. This disparity in women's favor is also common in countries with high (but not the highest) levels of human development. The picture is more mixed among countries where women fall behind as countries where men fall behind, and with a larger spread of values. It is in the least developed countries where women nearly always fall behind men on our measure.
The closer a nation's BIGI rating was to zero, the more gender-equal the country was determined to be. The United States came in ranked at 61 out of 134, favoring women. At the top of the list for equality are Italy and Israel, where men are slightly better off, and Saudi Arabia where women barely have an advantage.
The authors gave considerable attention to explaining the outcomes they found for Saudi Arabia, noting that although the country is "frequently portrayed as unfair to women in the media," it "has a relatively high level of overall average gender parity." But that doesn't necessarily mean women "have abundant opportunities in life, and neither does it mean that a country is free of sexist attitudes."
What is often discounted by academia in studying the Islamic kingdom, Stoet and Geary say, is the fact that lower-status Saudi men have challenges in finding partners due to legal polygamy in the country, and other factors that impact the life satisfaction of men and boys. "In this context," the authors write, "we would like to note that the often-touted bias toward the interests of men applies to high status men, not men in general."