“This research broadens the growing body of evidence that shows that in addition to taxing health, obesity significantly affects personal finances,” said Christine Ferguson, one of the researchers at George Washington University working on a longitudinal study of youth.
The researchers found that obese Americans make thousands of dollars less per year than average-weight Americans ($8,000 difference for women, about $4,000 for men).
Obviously, I’m not in favor of weight discrimination, and I do not believe that obese people should ever be paid less for equal work than their thinner co-workers (ditto women, non-white people, etc.) That being said, the write-up of this study leaves unanswered a whole host of questions that make me second guess their conclusions.
Sad fact that it is, poor people in this country are significantly more likely to be obese. Blame it on the food deserts, prevalence of fast food, inadequate nutritional education, lack of space to exercise, the list goes on and on. And we also know that poverty inhibits educational opportunities and ultimate career growth. Nothing is insurmountable, but let’s not pretend these aren’t severe disadvantages. Is it possible that a third factor, say coming from a lower income bracket, is partially responsible for obesity and income disparity?
Or, due to chronic obesity-related health conditions, might overweight employees take more sick days for medical reasons. Fewer days in the office might look like less dedication to the job, and might lead to fewer promotions and bonuses. Not saying that’s fair, sick leave is sick leave.
Or, there’s a stigma against fat people that equates being overweight with being lazy, ignorant, disorganized, selfish, and irresponsible. None of those qualities serve you well in the workplace, so maybe managers are making terrible assumptions about fat employees that prevent their professional growth.
Or, maybe it’s a big, tangled, ugly knot of stereotypes, health issues, and socioeconomic inequality. My problem with the quote from Ferguson at the top of this post–“obsesity affects personal finances,” is that the flip is very much also true, “personal finances affect obesity” and there are a zillion other correlations one could draw. The oversimplification of this piece makes it seem like bosses look at skinny employees and fat employees and overs the skinny one eight grand for being skinny.
Related Post: MSNBC has a hard time with words. “Fat Habits” and “Skinny Solutions.”
Related Post: NYT also has trouble with correlation and causation with depression and premarital sex.