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Families of fat women face slimmer pay

Heavy-set women are likely to face worse socioeconomic outcomes than slimmer colleagues, but fat men do just fine, a new research study has found.
/ Source: Reuters

Heavy-set women are likely to face worse socioeconomic outcomes than slimmer colleagues, but fat men do just fine, a new research study has found.

“Body mass significantly decreases women’s family income,” the study by two researchers at New York University found. “However ... men experience no negative effects of body mass on economic outcomes.”

Dalton Conley, director of NYU’s Center for Advanced Social Science Research, and NYU graduate student Rebecca Glauber found that a 1 percent increase in a woman’s body mass index --a measure of weight relative to height -- pushes family income down by about 0.6 percent.

Similarly, the researchers found a woman’s “occupational prestige,” a measure of the social status of differing jobs, also dropped as body mass rose, although to a somewhat lesser degree: 0.4 percent for each 1 percent increase in body mass.

Conley said the marriage market appeared to account for most of the differences in body mass-related outcomes among women.

“Women who are heavier for their height tend to have lower chances of getting married in the first place. If they do get married they tend to marry spouses who have less earning power and they also have a higher likelihood of getting divorced,” he said. “All those three factors reduce their total family income.”

Conley and Glauber also found that the conventional wisdom that tall men were more successful than shorter men did not hold true. “The talk is that height for men is what slimness is for woman, but it turns out there is absolutely no effect,” Conley said.

The study, which was recently posted to the Web site of the prestigious National Bureau of Economic Research, did not definitively rule out the possibility that a lower socioeconomic position to begin with might lead to a high body mass reading.

But Conley said the research, which compared outcomes between sisters and between brothers, suggested this was unlikely.

As for men, body mass appeared to have little impact.

“Body mass does not reduce their economic status outcomes, it does not reduce their likelihood of marriage, and it does not increase their likelihood of divorce, separation, or widowhood,” the researchers wrote.