Alternate economic strategies and nutritional anthropometry of women in American Samoa and Highland Bolivia.

Bindon J.R., and V.J. Vitzthum. 2002. Alternate economic strategies and nutritional anthropometry of women in American Samoa and Highland Bolivia.  Social Science & Medicine, 54:1299-1308.

This study compares findings from research projects involving different genetic, environmental, and cultural contexts: a study of lifestyle and health from American Samoa (ASLS) and the Bolivian project, Reproduction and Ecology in Provincia Aroma (REPA). This paper presents analyses of varying economic strategies and their association with nutritional status indicators in each population. The ASLS sample includes 66 Samoan women and the REPA sample includes 210 Aymara women. Principle components analysis of household economic resources within each sample extracted two significant factors: one represents modernizing influences including education and occupational status, and the other represents ethnographically salient traditional economic behavior. The traditional pattern includes adding household members in Samoa and selling agricultural products in Bolivia. This analysis places each woman along two continua, traditional and modern, based on her household mobilization of economic resources, permitting an understanding of the patterns underlying household economic behavior that is not possible in univariate analyses of socioeconomic variables. For the Bolivian women the strategy involving more education and higher occupational status was associated with higher measures of several nutritional status indicators, including body mass index, arm muscle area, and peripheral skinfolds. But among the Samoan women, where substantial obesity was the norm, there were no significant differences in anthropometric measurements based on economic strategies. These data argue for the importance of directly measuring the potential consequences of variation in household economic strategies rather than merely inferring such, and of assessing ethnographically relevant aspects of household economic production rather than limiting analyses to non-context-specific economic indicators such as income. This focus on household strategy is likely to be fruitful especially where economic and nutritional conditions are marginal. The findings from Bolivia also support efforts in developing countries to improve girls' education, and thereby occupational prospects, as a means to improve their health status as women.

Author Keywords: Household economics; Education; occupation; Nutritional status; Bolivia; American Samoa

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