Structural Sexism and Health in the United States: A New Perspective on Health Inequality and the Gender System


Journal Article

© American Sociological Association 2019. In this article, I build a new line of health inequality research that parallels the emerging structural racism literature. I develop theory and measurement for the concept of structural sexism and examine its relationship to health outcomes. Consistent with contemporary theories of gender as a multilevel social system, I conceptualize and measure structural sexism as systematic gender inequality at the macro level (U.S. state), meso level (marital dyad), and micro level (individual). I use U.S. state-level administrative data linked to geocoded data from the NLSY79, as well as measures of inter-spousal inequality and individual views on women’s roles as predictors of physical health outcomes in random-effects models for men and women. Results show that among women, exposure to more sexism at the macro and meso levels is associated with more chronic conditions, worse self-rated health, and worse physical functioning. Among men, macro-level structural sexism is also associated with worse health. However, greater meso-level structural sexism is associated with better health among men. At the micro level, internalized sexism is not related to physical health among either women or men. I close by outlining how future research on gender inequality and health can be furthered using a structural sexism perspective.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Homan, P

Published Date

  • June 1, 2019

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 84 / 3

Start / End Page

  • 486 - 516

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1939-8271

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0003-1224

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1177/0003122419848723

Citation Source

  • Scopus