Saturday, May 28, 2005

Fat Bottomed Economics

Not to get all Oprah about it, but there are some tragic implications in a new study regarding obesity among women and what it can mean for their socioeconomic status.

The Boston Globe reports that the first-of-its-kind study examined the body mass index (BMI) of about 1,300 women and 1,100 men over a 15-year period.

"They (Researchers) were able to compute that each 1 percent increase in women's BMI means a .6 percent decrease in future family income. So, a 60-pound weight difference between two 5-foot-4 women would account for a 30 percent difference in their future family incomes, such as $100,000 annually compared with $70,000.

"Much of this income difference occurs because the heavier women are, the poorer their spouses are likely to be, the research found. Also at work is the fact that heavier women are less likely to marry: For each 1 percent BMI increase, the prospects of matrimony decrease .35 percent. Single women tend to have lower incomes.

"Likewise, for every 1 percent increase in BMI, they found a .4 percent decrease in future job prestige, with prestige measured by public surveys long used by sociologists. So, a 100 percent difference in BMI -- a 5-foot-4 woman weighing 120 pounds versus one weighing 240 -- meant the difference between becoming a lawyer, a high prestige job, and an insurance agent, a medium prestige job or between a medium-prestige secretary and a low-prestige housekeeper."

The still-to-be-published study found that overweight men generally were not bound by the same income and marital limitations as their female counterparts.

My suspicion is that these results are less a reflection of external forces than they are of the insecurities and lack of confidence of overweight women -- although such self-imposed restrictions stem from a culture that teaches little girls early on how they must be pretty and trim to get ahead in life.

Overweight men certainly struggle with body-image issues, but don't necessarily battle the same notions of across-the-board worthlessness.


At 9:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Boy you hit the nail on the head. I was always told as a teenager that I would "get by" just fine because I was "little and cute". Grades really didn't matter.

This is the kind of thing that fucks women up, especially when they start gaining weight as they age.


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