Data from The National Longitudinal Survey of Youth show that obese Americans earn significantly less than their normal weight counterparts, with year 2004 overall average annual earnings cashing in at $8,666 less for obese women and $4,772 less for obese men compared to those of normal weight workers. This trend lessened, but still continued, in 2008. The twist? The “obesity pay gap” affects white and Hispanic workers, but not blacks.
From US News & World Report:
In 2004, Hispanic women who were obese earned $6,618 less than normal-weight Hispanic women. In 2008, the gap among women narrowed slightly but doubled for men. Hispanic men who were obese earned $8,394 less than normal weight Hispanic men.
In both 2004 and 2008, black men who were obese earned more than normal-weight black men, while wages were similar for obese and normal-weight black women.
Researchers suspect that the source of the pay gap is the social stigma of overweight people as lazy or unreliable, but the fact that obese blacks fare better income-wise than their white and Hispanic counterparts suggests that there may be a bit more at play and raises numerous questions.
Let’s say that the researchers have it right and the visual perception of a worker leads to an unfair evaluation of that worker’s deserved earnings based on physical appearance, including weight. Does that then mean that when managers look at so-called obese black people they do not associate them with the stereotype of the lazy fat person, i.e. they don’t “look” obese? Don’t these findings call into question the popular belief that the measure of clinical obesity — the ratio of height to weight — is inaccurate for the African-American body type? What does it mean that black men considered obese actually earn more than their normal weight counterparts?