Gender bias in the food insecurity experience of Ethiopian adolescents
Food insecurity is a pressing public health concern in many developing countries. Despite widespread interest in the sociocultural determinants of food insecurity, little is known about whether youths living in food insecure households experience food insecurity. The buffering hypothesis reviewed here assumes that, to the extent possible, adult members of households will buffer younger household members from the ill effects of food insecurity. A variant of the buffering hypothesis argues that only certain members of the households will enjoy the benefits of buffering. We hypothesize that within the context of Ethiopia, where girls have historically experienced discrimination, buffering is preferentially aimed at boys, especially as the household experiences greater levels of food stress. These hypotheses are tested using data from a population-based study of 2084 adolescents living in southwestern Ethiopia. Results indicate that boys and girls were equally likely to be living in severely food insecure households. Despite no differences in their households' food insecurity status, girls were more likely than boys to report being food insecure themselves. This gender difference was the largest in severely food insecure households. This same pattern was observed when comparing male-female sibling pairs living in the same household. These results are among the first to show that household level measures of food insecurity predict adolescent experiences of food insecurity, and that in the Ethiopian socio-cultural context, the relationship between household level food insecurity and adolescent food insecurity varies by gender. We also show that adolescent food insecurity is strongly associated with measures of general health and well-being.
Volume (Year): 66 (2008)
Issue (Month): 2 (January)
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