UNM Researchers Show Gender Norms that Favor Women Reverse Gender Disparities in Health

Departmental News

Posted:  Nov 18, 2020 - 12:00pm

A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) points to gender norms as a primary cause of health disparities between men and women. Researchers working among the Mosuo, a minority society in Southwest China, compared communities with two different sets of expectations for household membership and inheritance (called ‘kinship norms’).

Siobhán Mattison, assistant professor of Anthropology at The University of New Mexico and director of the Human Family and Evolutionary Demography Lab is the research team leader and has been working in China with the Mosuo since 2016. Evolutionary Anthropology graduate student Adam Reynolds is the first author of this study, participated in fieldwork in China, and has led numerous analyses, including for this study, to understand how kinship systems affect social and well-being outcomes.

‘Matrilineal’ Mosuo typically pass land, home, and wealth from mothers to daughters, who form the backbone of society, with men in more peripheral roles. ‘Patrilineal’ Mosuo typically pass inheritance from fathers to sons. Because of this, in matrilineal Mosuo communities, women tend to have more autonomy and control of resources. Language, religion, and other cultural beliefs and practices are largely similar across matrilineal and patrilineal Mosuo communities, which makes these factors unlikely explanations of observed differences in health between these communities.  Read More