Women Who Weigh More Earn Less

ByAlexa Pozniak

B O S T O N, Oct. 22, 2001 -- A new study suggests that overweight, white women earn a lighter paycheck than their skinnier colleagues.

Researchers at Cornell University in New York interviewed nearly 1,500 working women and found that those classified as overweight earn an average of 7 percent less than their co-workers.

The average weight of all of the women in the study was 149 pounds, and those classified as overweight weighed an average of 65 pounds more.

John Cawley, lead author of the study and assistant professor of policy, analysis and management at Cornell, says there are a number of theories that may explain the results.

"Previous research has found that people who are heavier tend to miss work more often due to illness. Also, people who are overweight may take jobs with lower wages but great health benefits."


Walter Lindstrom, attorney and founder of the Obesity Law and Advocacy Center, points out that overweight women, in general, are often the subject of workplace discrimination.

"Obesity has clearly impacted women in employment," says Lindstrom. "Promotions and economic opportunities are more limited for people of size, and there are issues with how well they present a corporate image to the public. This is similar to race discrimination."

Interestingly, the same relationship between weight and income did not hold true for Hispanic and African-American women. Cawley says he found little to no evidence of any wage difference between women of different weight classes.

Lindstrom, believes there are two underlying factors that may explain the difference between races.

"In terms of wages, the bar is lower for African-American and Hispanic women, and it's a heavier community, as well."

While previous studies have found similar results, Cawley says he is planning to conduct more research, because this has become an increasingly important issue over the last two decades.

"The percentage of Americans who are overweight has risen," he says. "This is something I and a lot of other researchers are going to study further."

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