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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.

Suggested Citation

  • Susan Averett & Sanders Korenman, 1993. "The Economic Reality of the Beauty Myth," NBER Working Papers 4521, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:4521
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J71 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination - - - Hiring and Firing
    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure

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