John T Manning, Bernhard Fink, and Robert Trivers (2014)

Digit ratio (2D: 4D) and gender inequalities across nations

Evolutionary Psychology, 12(4).

Gender inequality varies across nations, where such inequality is defined as the disproportionate representation of one sex over the other in desirable social, economic, and biological roles (typically male over female). Thus in Norway, 40% of parliamentarians are women, in the USA 17%, and in Saudi Arabia 0%. Some of this variation is associated with economic prosperity but there is evidence that this cause and effect can go in either direction. Here we show that within a population the average ratio of index (2D) to ring (4D) finger lengths (2D:4D)—a proxy measure of the relative degree to which offspring is exposed in utero to testosterone versus estrogen—is correlated with measures of gender inequality between nations. We compared male and female 2D:4D ratios to female parliamentary representation, labor force participation, female education level, maternal mortality rates, and juvenile pregnancy rates per nation in a sample of 29 countries. We found those nations who showed higher than expected female fetal exposure to testosterone (low 2D:4D) and lower than expected male exposure to fetal testosterone (high 2D:4D) had higher rates of female parliamentary representation, and higher female labor force participation. In short, the more similar the two sexes were in 2D:4D, the more equal were the two sexes in parliamentary and labor force participation. The other variables were not as strongly correlated. We suggest that higher than expected fetal testosterone in females and lower fetal testosterone in males may lead to high female representation in the national labor force and in parliament.

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