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Examining the gender gap in nutrition: An example from rural Mexico


  • Backstrand, Jeffrey R.
  • Allen, Lindsay H.
  • Pelto, Gretel H.
  • Chávez, Adolfo


Gender differences in nutrient and food intake were examined in Mexican Nutrition CRSP (Collaborative Research Support Program) infants (N = 75), preschoolers (N = 80), and school children (N = 91). No significant gender differences in dietary quality or quantity were seen for infants and preschoolers. For school children, the contribution of various foods to total energy intake (dietary quality) was also quite similar for girls and boys. Equity in dietary quality remained even under conditions of economic and demographic stress. Nevertheless, school girls consumed significantly less energy per day than boys (~ 300 kcal/d or 1.3 mJ/d), and less of all micronutrients examined. Gender differences in estimated basal metabolic rates of school children were slight (~ 20 kcal/d), and body composition and size were similar. When energy intakes were expressed as a percent of estimated requirement (calculated from age, sex and weight using WHO/FAO/UNU equations), intakes were adequate and not significantly different between girls () and boys (). Playground observations showed girls to be less active than boys, which may reflect both cultural and biological influences. Apparently due to this lower activity, school girls consumed less energy, and may have been at much higher risk than boys of micronutrient deficiency. The lower food intakes of girls did not appear to be due to purposeful dietary discrimination, but rather to culturally patterned sex roles involving lower activity.

Suggested Citation

  • Backstrand, Jeffrey R. & Allen, Lindsay H. & Pelto, Gretel H. & Chávez, Adolfo, 1997. "Examining the gender gap in nutrition: An example from rural Mexico," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 44(11), pages 1751-1759, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:44:y:1997:i:11:p:1751-1759

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    Cited by:

    1. Dirk Van de gaer & Joost Vandenbossche & José Luis Figueroa, 2014. "Children's Health Opportunities and Project Evaluation: Mexico's Oportunidades Program," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 28(2), pages 282-310.
    2. Rachel Goldberg & Susan Short, 2012. "“The Luggage that isn’t Theirs is Too Heavy…”: Understandings of Orphan Disadvantage in Lesotho," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer;Southern Demographic Association (SDA), vol. 31(1), pages 67-83, February.


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