My Two Cents

This Is Wrong….

Chris Farrell Dec 18, 2007

I find this troubling. Disdain at overweight and obese women is an increasingly acceptable prejudice. “The stigma of obesity has actually worsened in the past 40 years with the increase in prevalence of obesity. The bias [has become] more socially acceptable,” says Rebecca Puhl of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University.

That quote comes from a new paper that shows the pejudice has real world financial consequences. It’s a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics: “Women’s Increasing Wage Penalties from Being Overweight and Obese.”

The paper looks at annual surveys between the 1981 and 2000 of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth–as well as other data sets–to estimate the effect of being overweight on hourly wages. Previous studies, say the authors, have shown that white women are the only race-gender group for which weight has a statistically significant effect on wages. Their paper finds a statistically significant continual increase in the wage penalty for overweight and obese white women followed throughout two decades.

Here’s the scholars’ conclusion: “The increasing wage penalty corresponds to current psychological research that demonstrates increased weight stigmatization in the United States. Further, as larger women age, their wages incur the effects of years of cumulative discrimination. With other factors controlled, their starting wages are lower…. This paper has shown that an obese 43 year-old woman received a larger wage penalty in 2004 than she received at 20 in 1981. This paper also provides some evidence that an obese 20 year-old woman receives a larger wage penalty today than she would have in 1981 at age 20…. It can be concluded that increased body weight has drastic economic consequences that have grown over time.”

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