Heavier white female workers earn less

ITHACA, N.Y. -- The heavier white working women are, the less money they make, a Cornell University researcher's study concludes.

Women who weighed 65 pounds more than other women in a sample of 1,442 white female workers earned an 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 at Cornell.

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, who presented his findings at the Robert Wood Johnson Conference on the Politics of Obesity in Burlington, Vt., in June, 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. Pr

Contact: Susan S. Lang
Cornell University News Service

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