Moral Low Ground


Study: For Women, Thinner Figures= Fatter Paychecks

Time reports that a new study in the Journal of Applied Psychology concludes that “very thin” women earn more than their “average weight counterparts.” $22,000 more, to be exact.

Researchers Timothy A. Judge and Daniel M. Cable, of the University of Florida and London Business School, respectively, not only found that thinner women earned much more than their heavier contemporaries, but that overweight women are actually punished financially for their weight. According to Forbes, “‘Heavy’ and ‘Very Heavy’ women lost over $9,000 and almost $19,000, respectively, than their average weight counterparts.”

Some other key findings of their study:

• “Thin” women earned a little over $7,000 more than their average weight counterparts.

• “Whereas women are punished for any weight gain, very thin women receive the most severe punishment for their first few pounds of weight gain. This finding is consistent with research showing that the media’s depiction of an unrealistically think female ideal leads people to see this ideal as normative, expected, and central to female attractiveness.”

• Gaining weight is more damaging to women’s earnings than to men. “For women, increases in weight have negative linear effects on pay, but the negative effects are stronger at below-average than at above-average weight levels.”

• “For men, increases in weight have positive linear effects of pay but at diminished returns at above-average levels of weight.”

Not surprisingly, our society views the weight issue quite differently when it comes to men. Judge and Cable found that men’s paychecks don’t decrease as their weight increases as women’s do. Writes Forbes’ Lisa Quast:

In American culture we have seen standards of attractiveness that are substantially slimmer for women than men (which can be seen in comments/beliefs that overweight women are “fat” yet overweight men are “sturdy”). And over time, this standard for women has only gotten worse, with women trying to lose more and more weight. “This media ideal is quite pervasive in society, with female cartoon characters, movie/television actresses, Playboy centerfolds, and Miss America Pageant winners all having become increasingly thinner over the decades.”

As Time accurately points out, this is all the more disturbing when you consider the fact that men, on average, are already making more than women to begin with. Women in America earn only about 80% of what men do, although surprisingly, in some industries you wouldn’t expect the gap is very small. In the construction sector, for example, women earn 92.2 cents for every dollar men earn. And excuse my presumptuousness, but the women who work in construction probably aren’t those “very thin” examples noted in the Judge/Cable study.

That thinner, and more attractive (although the two are by no means complementary attributes) women earn more than their heavier and/or less comely counterparts is no surprise. Despite all the gains women have made over the last half century, we still live in a male-dominated world, and men are visually-driven creatures. The results of this study, while not really news to anyone, will at least hopefully quantify an insidious form of discrimination– what blogger Betty Fokker calls “fat hate”– that is not only considered societally acceptable by those practicing it but also by those who are victimized by it. Fokker points to a recent survey that found an astonishing one in six women would rather be blind than fat. That these women would be physically unable to gaze upon their svelte figures is apparently of no concern. The important thing, apparently, is that society sees them as slim. As the Judge/Cable study, it literally pays to be skinny– in more ways than one.

Skinnier waist, fatter paycheck.



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