Relative deprivation: Measurement issues and predictive role for body image dissatisfaction

Lucio Esposito, Adrián Villaseñor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
17 Downloads (Pure)


The study of how relative standing in the socioeconomic hierarchy affects health outcomes faces a number of challenges. Two critical issues are the choice of the indicator quantifying relative standard of living and the collinearity which typically arises when absolute standard of living is controlled for. We address these issues by taking into examination linear and concave measures of relative deprivation and by showing that collinearity can be lessened through manipulations of the measures’ formulae. Importantly, we argue that the two issues are intertwined and should be jointly considered by researchers. We illustrate the points above using nationally representative data from Mexico (N = 44,214) and studying relative deprivation as a predictor of body image dissatisfaction – a growing public health concern whose effects go well beyond eating disorders. Controlling for several individual characteristics, binary and multinomial logit regressions indicate relative deprivation as a risk factor for body image dissatisfaction. By conducting subsample analyses and by introducing an interaction term between gender and relative deprivation, we show evidence of a gender-based heterogeneity in the role of relative deprivation – which predicts feeling smaller than desired for both females and males and feeling larger than desired for females but not for males. This heterogeneity is discussed in the light of the different social pressures females and males face for slenderness and muscularity. Our evidence enriches the literature on socioeconomic gradients in health, pointing to an additional domain in which a low position in the socioeconomic ladder translates into greater likelihood of developing health problems and adopting health-compromising behaviors.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49–57
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Early online date21 Sep 2017
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2017


  • Relative deprivation
  • Body image dissatisfaction
  • Collinearity
  • Gender
  • Mexico

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