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We investigated factors accounting for the consistently higher levels of household food insecurity reported by women in Canada.
Two cycles of the Canadian Community Health Survey for the years 2005/2006 and 2007/2008 were pooled to examine the association between household food insecurity, measured using the Household Food Security Survey Module and other metrics, and respondent sex. We stratified households as married/cohabiting (in which case, the household respondent was chosen randomly) or non-married (single/widowed/separated/divorced) and adjusted for differences in household characteristics, including the presence of children.
Analysis was restricted to households dependent on employment/self-employment and whose reported annual household income was below $CAN 100 000. Exclusions included respondents less than 18 years of age, any welfare receipt, and missing food insecurity, marital status, income source and amount, or household composition data.
For non-married households, increased food insecurity in female- v. male-led households was accounted for by significant differences in household socio-economic characteristics. In contrast, in married/cohabiting households with or without children, higher food insecurity rates were reported when the respondent was female and neither respondent characteristics nor socio-economic factors accounted for the differences.
Higher rates of food insecurity in non-married households in Canada are largely attributable to women's socio-economic disadvantage. In married households, women appear to report higher levels of food insecurity than men. These findings suggest a possible bias in the measurement of population-level household food insecurity in surveys that do not account for the sex of the respondent in married/cohabiting households.
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