Overweight White Working Women Make Less Money. (Brief Reports: Policy Analysis and Management)

By Lang, Susan S. | Human Ecology, March 2002 | Go to article overview

Overweight White Working Women Make Less Money. (Brief Reports: Policy Analysis and Management)


Lang, Susan S., Human Ecology


WOMEN WHO WEIGHED 65 pounds more than other women in a sample of 1,442 white female workers earned on average 7 percent less than their slimmer colleagues when other factors were controlled for statistically. That difference in income is roughly equivalent to the wage effect of one year of education, two years of continuous employment at one job, or three years of work experience.

However, the same relationship between weight and income did not hold true for Hispanic and African American working women, says John Cawley, a health policy scholar, economist, and an assistant professor of policy analysis and management.

Cawley found only weak evidence that overweight Hispanic women earn less and no evidence that the wages of overweight black women are affected. Cawley also found no evidence that weight affects the probability of employment for white, black, or Hispanic women or the probability of holding a white-collar job.

Cawley analyzed data in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth on 2,843 white, black, and Hispanic females over as many as 12 years up to 1998. Cawley's analysis controlled for weight in alternate ways: weight both in pounds (holding constant height in inches) and body mass index, a measure of weight for height that is the standard measure of fatness in medicine and epidemiology. He also controlled for many other factors that affect wages, such as education, measures of intelligence, number of years at the current job, and local unemployment rates.

The average weight of women in the sample was 148.6 pounds. The difference between women at the average weight and those who weighed more than 95 percent of the sample was 65 pounds. Previous studies of this question also have found that some heavier women earn less. …

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