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October 21, 2010


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FMF -- Wow you are a little far from reality in considering your 200lb 6'4" to be "average". The best data I can find is from 2002, and for that the average weight for a man aged 40-49 is 196 and the average height is 69.7" (5'9.7").

Heh, sorry to bring the blog back to high school but was there a pun intended in the last couple of sentences?

Ah but is "thin" (for women) the cause or the effect? That is, do women tend to make more money if they are thin, or do thin women tend to make more money? The text you cite doesn't list what control factors were used in the study.

For example, I might argue that highly-motivated, self-starting, and disciplined women tend to make more money. And motivated, disciplined people, on average tend to have the, well, motivation and discipline to exercise, eat well, etc.

Ergo, thinness and higher pay might both be, to some extent, the simple EFFECTS of certain personality traits!

You seriously underestimate this countries problem with obesity. Based on the link provided above, 25lbs under the average is definitely not rail thin.

I was thinking the same thing, Tom. It can be hard to differentiate the causes and effects in studies like these.

Average weight of a 35 year old white woman appears to be about 145 lbs: (the chart I found was just for white women).

I think this data is not very useful because it is not job specific. Very thin women can be models, they can be exotic dancers, they can be paid escorts, they can be waitresses in high end scantily clad restaurant businesses etc. These jobs all pay better than average.

The real question is what is the pay different for a thin and average weight librarian. What is the pay difference for a thin and average weight teacher. Etc.

Some professions clearly will get you much better pay if you are thin and attractive because its the nature of the profession. For professions where it doesn't matter it probably still factors in due to human nature but I bet the vast majority of the difference is due to a woman's weight getting her jobs in industries that just wouldn't hire her if she had a different body type.

As for men and height I suspect you are on to something there. I can think of a reason being over weight would be an advantage. Being too thin could be a disadvantage as you appear weakly or sickly. Being overweight I would think is also an advantage, but being tall and normal weight will make you heavier than average but still likely to get paid more. So that probably is a big portion of the male difference.

These studies that people put out like this are so generalized as to often be more misleading than enlightening. It's unfortunate.

small correction. I said being overweight I would think is also an advantage. I meant it is a disadvantage. Being heavier than average doesn't necessarily make you over weight cause height is a big factor.

I'm 6'2" and weigh 200 lbs so another 7 lbs to go! Actually my very fit weight is 175 to 180 lbs but as I've gotten older I've found my weight creeps up even though I am exercising 6 days a week for 45 minutes - 2 hours each day... guess I'm snacking too much or something. Definitely I would feel faster if I lost 20 lbs, can still run 5 miles in 40 minutes or so and have good muscle strength but feel pretty exhausted from the effort.

On the bright side my income seems to have gone up as my weight has so maybe there is something true to this study.


@Tom - if it was due to personality types instead of appearance, I would expect the same trend for both women and men, instead of opposing trends...

In addition to what Tom point out, most women also know that the more kids you have, the more likely you are to be overweight since each pregnancy packs on pounds that are hard to lose. And if a woman has a lot of kids she is less likely to have a professional job.

I do think that whether you're a man or a woman, your cost of living is less if you aren't overweight--because of your health. Also I think you don't have to spend as much on clothing.

I'm sorry, FMF and Mike, but 6'4" and 6'2" are not average. Based on my family, 6'8" is the average height (damn those doorways!) and the world is strongly prejudiced against us (damn those airline seats!). Though I have seen studies which indicate taller men do have a higher average income...

Perhaps you have a few inches left to grow?



Remember,in "fat America" there is a BIG difference for "average" vs "normal", just check teh BMI charts and body fat tables. Most "average" people are 20~ lbs or so overweight.

I don't think FMF is saying he's 'average' height-he's saying he's average weight for someone 6'4'', which I think is probably true, though he's probably below average, weight-wise, for his height.

I think it would be interesting to know how many of the thin women were married and/or had children. Taking time off for kids would naturally increase body weight and impact earnings due to time sitting on the sidelines.

As for men, it would be interesting to know how many hours they worked. Maybe they earned more purely because they worked more/harder. Which would naturally lead to a more sedentary life in many jobs, thus being overweight.

Correlation does not equal causation.

"Taking time off for kids would naturally increase body weight and impact earnings due to time sitting on the sidelines." hmmm...the lattter half of that may be true but, the first half is HOGWASH! The time one would have to EXERCISE is still the same, there's 24 hours in a day and 60-90 minutes a day 4-6x a week to do just that along with what you put/don't in your mouth (KCals) shouldn't EXCUSES to be overweight for 95%~ of the fatties...they earn less, ot's proven, and often are lazier is one of those reasons as an employer of many folks for 16~ years!

ROTFL @ rzrshrp


But seriously, this study doesn't make the correlation necessarily true. It sounds like some Freakonomics type assessment to me.

Let's try two of them: Thinner women are more attractive than bigger than average women. Statistically, more hiring is done by males because more males are in the workforce. Therefore, males want more attractive women working for them so they are provided more of a financial incentive.

Statistically, more hiring is done by males because more males are in the workforce. Most males are much fatter than women because unlike woman, they don't have the social pressures forced upon them to be thin(er). Therefore, when men hire men, they don't mind hiring the bigger guy and besides, if they hire the thinner guy, now the employer has to worry about competition to win over the already few attractive women.

Without reading the actual study I don't think it is safe to read too much into a couple snippets reported by the press. I really don't think you can look at this and take any kind of assumption that losing or gaining weight will directly impact your pay level. We don't even know if they've ruled out other factors like height, education level, age, etc.

Interesting, I'm exactly 207 pounds and I've passed most of my peers at the office in terms of salary.

Weight is a function of calories consumed versus calories burned. Consume more calories than you burn over a long period of time, then you get fat. Consume fewer calories than you burn over a long period of time, then you lose fat. It's really not hard.

The problem for a lot of Americans, and many people in the Western world is that we've seen a decrease in physical activity (fewer calories burned) while we've seen an increase in portion size (more calories consumed). This leads to obesity over a long period of time. Getting fat doesn't happen overnight, nor does getting thin again.

Trust me, I know. From 2001 to 2003, I went from about 140lbs to 185lbs on a 5'11 frame. From 2003 to 2009, I dropped from 185lbs to 130lbs. In terms of weight, I'd rather weigh less and get paid less to avoid the potential problems that carrying extra weight can bring (diabetes, cancer, etc).

I watched a National Geographic program the other day on stress and society. (Watched it on netflix on demand Stress:Portrait of a killer)

In monkeys and in people it was found that higher stress levels lead to weight gain and other health issues.

It was also found that ones position in the social hierarchy determined ones stress levels. They studied the British Civil Service and found stress levels decreases as you move up the chain.

So... if this info is correct, you would expect lower earners to have higher stress levels, higher chances for obesity, and other health issues.

I think the part of the country (US) you are in makes a big difference too.

I'm living in Boston right now, and I can personally find no correlation regarding weight where I work or any subtle attitude other than how you dress affecting your success. I dress better than most of my colleagues but not as well as a few, and I notice that some of the people that dress better are viewed as good employees even though they are constantly late and are not actually that good at their job. I kind of applaud them though- exploit the system if you can... eventually though someone will call them out on it. I just got a recent promotion over one of these employees, so I do think that performance can still play a big factor even if he was wearing $400 outfits every day over my Old Navy stuff. :P

However where I'm from- Houston- I'd definitely say a man who has some meat on him is viewed as more successful. As a 5'10, 140lb guy I think I was seen as a "kid" or "weak" even though my boss was pleased personally with my performance. Those guys who carried around some extra pounds tended to get away with more, and their opinions seemed to have more weight (pardon the pun).

I'm a pretty healthy guy, so if I gain any weight it better be in muscle. I'll never put on even 5lbs to look more masculine or authoritative... seems pretty barbarian.

A lot of good points made here, I personally think Jim and Tom or on to something, I look at things like long term earnings in this case and figure even if I am skinny or average and make less, in my lifetime I could make more because I can work longer and with less medical bills.

The thing is, as long as I have my good health, I can always make money... Point being, if those who do become overweight make more than skinny people, then will that turn to a case of the Tortoise and the Hare in the long run?

Where are all the women commenters? I can tell you from my own experiences and my female friends', you get a job faster the better you look and make more too. I don't think "thin" is technically what does it though.

I am short, a little chubby, and very friendly looking and I make way less than tall, thin-average women I've spoken with. BUT, I make more than my friends that are obese - except for the one who wears her girth well and likes to show major cleavage. So, I think it depends on the overall package, not just weight.

Girls, if you can't do thin and you aren't a shark in the business world, show some cleavage. It sounds demeaning and I choose not to do it, but it works very well. Or start a blog and nobody cares what you look like. ;-)

Can't necessarily blame weight gain on having kids. I am a stay-at-home mom and now weigh quite a bit less than I did when I was working in an office. With two little kids to keep up with, I definitely don't sit in a chair all day anymore!

I have to second the don't blame kids for weight gain. If anything blame the lifestyle a person chooses to lead. A woman doesn't have to carry extra pounds from each pregnancy. I would say an exception to that is if she had pregnancies very close together. Even then given appropriate time, it shouldn't matter. The human body will rebound fairly quickly given healthy food and a little exercise. I was within 5 lbs of my pre-pregnancy weight 6 weeks after giving birth with no outstanding effort on my part aside from eating well and taking care of my child. Typical saying for after pregnancy weight loss - 9 months on, 9 months off.

I'm 5'7" and weight 115 lbs, which is rail thin. And I'm dirt-poor, unable to find work in my career and despite working hard my entire life, never was privy to raises or perks (since my career - graphic design - is over-saturated with people who hold 4-year college degrees and are willing to work for minimum wage just to have a job in their field)

So weight doesn't always matter.
Still, it's messed up that weight and looks should even matter when seeking work. I know I'll have to always work extra hard and do much more than normal people, because other than being thin, I have NOTHING in the looks department, and am well below average in looks (and nothing can fix this, short of extensive plastic surgery). It's so unfair, but unfairness is a horrible fact of life.

@BD, act like you're the hottest hottie in the room and it is amazing how that changes what people see. Confidence and knowledge of your field can trump looks and pretty much anything else. I'm 5'2" and would have been considered "curvy" about 15-20 pounds ago. Yet, I still get respect and great reviews because I know my stuff and know I know my stuff.

My husband "faked it until he made it" with his interviews - he was fresh out of grad school and didn't have hardly any real librarian experience but he acted like he was God's gift and is willing to work hard to catch up. He was hired before he even received his diploma.


You make some good points. In my old company (an Australian owned old school management multi-national) there were two women who made it up the management ladder very quickly, from Sales person to Manager to Director and VP of Sales in 2 years. Both showed off cleavage and there were rumors of her sleeping up to the top with the 65 year old Senior VP of Sales (both women were in their 30's).

They were internally dubbed the SS (sex sells) sisters.

They didn't mind the title, surprisingly enough, and were laughing all the way to the bank.


@Crystal: Thanks for the advice. It's just so hard, because I have so little confidence (due to low self-esteem). But thank you for the advice. I'll try.

I agree with Crystal. I walked around my company like I owned the place, I worked hard and sold more than most of my co-workers. I was friendly, outgoing, bubbly, easy going, non drama girl. I did not show cleavage. Oh and I was much heavier than everyone else. In my head and in my behavior, I owned it. I made the most in commissions in my department. All my other co-workers could not figure out why. It was self confidence. Maybe the majority of "weight proportionate/thin" people have this attitude because they have happy endorphins running through their bodies. Do not underestimate the power of confidence, that zest for life and being passionate about what you do. That helps you make more money. I started a new job, in a new field, 75 lbs lighter, kinda scared and I noticed that I needed to step it up aka change my attitude, dress well and own it. I am. I made that change. It is working ;)

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