The Economic Reality of the Beauty Myth

JOURNAL OF HUMAN RESOURCES, Vol. 31, No. 2, Spring 1996

Posted: 28 Apr 1998

See all articles by Susan L. Averett

Susan L. Averett

Lafayette College - Department of Economics & Business

Sanders Korenman

City University of New York - School of Public Affairs; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Abstract

We investigate income, marital status, and hourly pay differentials by body mass 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 earlierweight 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.

JEL Classification: J31, J71

Suggested Citation

Averett, Susan and Korenman, Sanders, The Economic Reality of the Beauty Myth. JOURNAL OF HUMAN RESOURCES, Vol. 31, No. 2, Spring 1996. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3241

Susan Averett (Contact Author)

Lafayette College - Department of Economics & Business ( email )

Easton, PA 18042
United States
610-250-5307 (Phone)
610-250-8961 (Fax)

Sanders Korenman

City University of New York - School of Public Affairs ( email )

135 E 22nd St
New York, NY 10010
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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