Can Being Thin Increase Your Earning Potential?

Who knew payscale practices were still stuck in the stone age?

Depending on your gender the results of a study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology in October, recently gaining online popularity, say yes – or no.

The theory behind the study is that society holds very different body standards for men versus women. Research indicates that the consequences of defying these social norms may not be linear. After examining the relationship between weight, income and the degree to which the relationship varies by gender, the findings support the hypothesis that the closer women are to media defined versions of attractiveness, the more value the person will find in the labor market. In simpler terms, if you’re a woman, the thinner you are the more money you make. {Morning Quickie} Even more depressing, as women celebrated as attractive by the media have become thinner, so have perceptions of average and overweight.

Numerous tests have been done and theories discussed throughout the years regarding this very topic. Stigmas, stereotypes and prejudice can all play a role in the bias against physical appearances. For example, a woman considered “very thin” (25 lbs. less than the group norm) makes an average of $22,000 more per year than her average size counterparts. Could it be that thinner women are actually just better at the job? Maybe at an individual level in some cases, but considering the size of the study it seems unlikely that every average to overweight woman was that much worse at her job than her thinner counterpart. The results were drawn from two separate studies in the US and Germany, and each study tracked more than 10,000 participants.

At an average or higher than average weight? Value yourself highly, even if others don't. Once in a while, that works out really well.

The same study indicates the opposite holds true for men. “Men earn more as they pack on the pounds – all the way to the point where they become obese, when the pay trend reverses”. In fact, very thin men can earn an average of $17,000 less than their bulkier counterparts. {Wall Street Journal}

There are reasons for hiring someone on the thinner side, but there are a very small number of jobs where weight has a direct influence on a person’s ability to do the job. Even in our thin-obsessed society it is shocking to see such a difference in pay scale for something most people don’t have control over. If a man is naturally very thin, he shouldn’t have to spend hours in the gym bulking up to earn money for a job well done (unless that job is something like body building, of course). If a woman is naturally not very thin, she shouldn’t have to starve herself or put her health in danger for pay equal to thinner counterparts.

Unfortunately, since weight/body type doesn’t qualify as a protected class under US employment law (like gender or race), when it comes to hiring or pay there’s not much someone who finds themselves discriminated against in this way can do to – forgive the pun, balance the scales. While it may be small consolation, the one person who can be convinced to ignore stereotypes is in the mirror. In at least one case, valuing yourself highly can make some difference in how others value your work as well.

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