Maternal mortality, women's status, and economic dependency in less developed countries: a cross-national analysis

Soc Sci Med. 1999 Jul;49(2):197-214. doi: 10.1016/s0277-9536(99)00112-4.


While much has been written about the medical, economic, and social causes of cross-national differences in some mortality related phenomena such as in life expectancy and infant mortality, much less attention has been given to maternal mortality, the focus of the present study. In the studies of maternal mortality that have been done, there has been very little effort to assess the potential relevance of the gender stratification and dependency theory perspectives. Using lagged cross-sectional and path analysis with a sample of 79 less developed countries, this article focuses on the impact of predictors linked to three theoretical perspectives - modernization, economic dependency, and gender stratification. We find that women's status, as measured by indicators such as level of education relative to men, age at first marriage, and reproductive autonomy, is a strong predictor of maternal mortality. We find that economic dependency, especially multinational corporate investment, has a detrimental effect on maternal mortality that is mediated by its harmful impacts on economic growth and the status of women. We also find support for developmental theory, a variant of modernization theory.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Developing Countries*
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Maternal Mortality*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy in Adolescence
  • Regression Analysis
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Women's Rights*