Blog | Friday, December 16, 2011

QD: News Every Day--Obese women earn measurably less

Obesity impacts income, especially among women, according to a report from The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services' Department of Health Policy.

In 2004, wages among the obese were $8,666 less for females and $4,772 lower for males. In 2008, wages were $5,826 less for obese females, a 14.6% penalty over normal weight females, the researchers concluded after examining years 2004 and 2008 in the Bureau of Labor Statistics' National Longitudinal Survey of Youth.

The research shows that there are significant differences in wages dependent upon race that couldn't be accounted for by measuring pre-recession (2004) and recession (2008) measures. In 2004, Hispanic women who were obese earned $6,618 less than those who were normal weight. In 2008, the differential doubled for Hispanic men who were obese to earnings of $8,394 less than normal weight counterparts, while for women the gap narrowed slightly.

Other key findings from the report include:
--Men and women who were obese experienced reduced wages compared to their normal weight counterparts;
--Except Hispanic men, the wage differential narrowed between 2004 and 2008, despite the economy worsening;
--White obese women experienced a wage penalty in both 2004 and 2008 while white men only experienced a differential in 2004;
--Obese Hispanic women experienced a wage differential in both 2004 and 2008; obese Hispanic men only experienced a wage differential in 2008;
--Obese black men's wages were higher than their normal weight counterparts in 2004 and 2008, while black women's wages were similar between those who were obese and those who were normal weight.

The research builds upon previous research that focused on the overall, tangible, annual costs of being obese based on indirect costs, including lost productivity, and direct costs, such as obesity-related medical expenditures. On average, those costs are $4,879 for an obese woman and $2,646 for an obese man.

The implication for clinicians involves moving beyond just the direct costs and into the indirect--yet unclear--relationship between obesity, health and socio-economics, the report concluded.