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Objectives

This study examines predictors of the gender gap in life expectancy across a large cross-national sample.

Methods

We employ random effects and fixed effects models of the gender difference (female–male) and gender ratio (female/male) in life expectancy during the 1980–2005 period.

Results

Women's status, traditional male hazards, and development/modernization processes tend to widen the gender gap in life expectancy. In addition, income inequality expands the gender gap, while female representation in parliament reduces it. We argue that these latter effects are a function of (1) the steeper socioeconomic gradient for men in predicting mortality and (2) the protection of economically vulnerable groups by female parliamentarians, which provides greater health returns to males.

Conclusion

Advances in gender equity along economic, political, and cultural lines appear to exert countervailing effects, both expanding and reducing the gender gap in mortality.