MPIDR Working Paper

The Patriarchy Index: a new measure of gender and generational inequalities in the past

Szołtysek, M., Poniat, R., Gruber, S., Klüsener, S.
MPIDR Working Paper WP-2016-014, 40 pages.
Rostock, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (December 2016)
Open Access


In this article, we present a new measure for use in cross-cultural studies of family-driven age- and gender-related inequalities. This composite measure, which we call the Patriarchy Index, combines a range of variables related to familial behaviour that reflect varying degrees of sex- and age-related social inequality across different family settings. We demonstrate the comparative advantages of the index by showing how 266 historical populations living in regions stretching from the Atlantic coast of Europe to Moscow scored on the patriarchy scale. We then compare the index with contemporary measures of gender discrimination, and find a strong correlation between historical and current inequality patterns. Finally, we explore how variation in patriarchy levels across Europe is related to the socio-economic and institutional characteristics of the regional populations, and to variation across these regions in their degree of demographic centrality and in their environmental conditions. Overall, the results of our study confirm previous findings that family organisation is a crucial generator of social inequality, and point to the importance of considering the historical context when analysing the current global contours of inequality.

Keywords: Europe, gender, patriarchy, social heterogeneity, spatial analysis
The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.