The sex gap in mortality: historical patterns across twenty-two countries

Dana A. Glei, University of California, Berkeley

This paper uses data from the Human Mortality Database to examine sex differences in e0 and age patterns in sex ratios of nMx over time for 24 countries. From 1751 to 1900, the female advantage in e0 was relatively small, sex ratios were close to 1.0, and infant mortality accounted for 30-65% of the sex difference. In the early 1900s, the sex gap began to widen primarily due to increasing sex ratios in mortality. By the late 1940s, ages 40-79 accounted for 60-75% of the sex gap, which was growing rapidly in virtually all countries. Since the 1980s, the sex gap has begun to narrow in most countries, but only in part due to declining sex ratios. Simulations suggest that even if sex ratios had remained at 1970s levels, the sex difference would still have narrowed considerably due to declining mortality—in many cases much more than it actually did.

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Presented in Session 11: Gender, health and mortality (1)