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The Economic Reality of the Beauty Myth

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  • Susan Averett
  • Sanders Korenman

Abstract

We investigate income, marital status, and hourly pay differentials by body mass (kg/m2) in a sample of 23 to 31 year olds drawn from the 1988 NLSY. Obese women have lower family incomes than women whose weight-for-height is in the 'recommended' range. Results for men are weaker and mixed. We find similar results when we compare same-sex siblings in order to control for family background (e.g., social class) differences. Differences in economic status by body mass for women increase markedly when we use an earlier weight measure or restrict the sample to persons who were single and childless when the early weight was reported. There is some evidence of labor market discrimination against obese women. However, differences in marriage probabilities and in spouse's earnings account for 50 to 95 percent of their lower economic status. There is no evidence that obese African American women suffer an economic penalty relative to other African American women.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 4521.

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Date of creation: Nov 1993
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Publication status: published as Journal of Human Resources, Spring 1996
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:4521

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  1. Richard H. Steckel, 1992. "Stature and Living Standards in the United States," NBER Chapters, in: American Economic Growth and Standards of Living before the Civil War, pages 265-310 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Jacob Mincer & Solomon Polachek, 1974. "Family Investments in Human Capital: Earnings of Women," NBER Chapters, in: Marriage, Family, Human Capital, and Fertility, pages 76-110 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Jacob Mincer & Solomon Polacheck, 1974. "Family Investments in Human Capital: Earnings of Women," NBER Chapters, in: Economics of the Family: Marriage, Children, and Human Capital, pages 397-431 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Randall K. Filer, 1993. "The Usefulness of Predicted Values for Prior Work Experience in Analyzing Labor Market Outcomes for Women," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 28(3), pages 519-537.
  5. Chamberlain, Gary, 1980. "Analysis of Covariance with Qualitative Data," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 47(1), pages 225-38, January.
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