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The Economic Reality of the Beauty Myth

  • Susan Averett
  • Sanders Korenman

We investigate income, marital status, and hourly pay differentials by body mass (kg/m 2 ) 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 (for example, 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. Differences in marriage probabilities and spouse's earnings, however, account for 50 to 95 percent of their lower economic status. There is little evidence that obese African American women suffer an economic penalty relative to other African American women.

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Article provided by University of Wisconsin Press in its journal Journal of Human Resources.

Volume (Year): 31 (1996)
Issue (Month): 2 ()
Pages: 304-330

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Handle: RePEc:uwp:jhriss:v:31:y:1996:i:2:p:304-330
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://jhr.uwpress.org/

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  1. Mincer, Jacob & Polachek, Solomon, 1974. "Family Investment in Human Capital: Earnings of Women," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(2), pages S76-S108, Part II, .
  2. Chamberlain, Gary, 1980. "Analysis of Covariance with Qualitative Data," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 47(1), pages 225-38, January.
  3. Richard H. Steckel, 1991. "Stature and Living Standards in the United States," NBER Historical Working Papers 0024, 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. 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.
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