Why rich woman don’t get fat

This is the title of an Atlantic article that finds the that although more woman than men are obese, this gap narrows for high-income women.

One reason for this difference could be that women are more penalized than men for being fat. In fact, the Atlantic finds that the annual cost of obesity is $4,879 for woman and $2,646 for men. The difference is almost entirely due to the fact that men’s wages do not decrease if they are obese, but woman’s wages do.

Without any wage penalty, it is unclear whether one would expect rich people to be fat. Healthy food is often more expensive than unhealthy food. For instance, creating a salad yourself is typically more expensive than buying a McDonalds hamburger. Thus, one would expect rich people to eat healthier.

It is unclear whether rich people would exercise more than poor people. Although rich people have more money to pay for trainers and gym membership, their time (measured in wages) is more valuable. Thus, the opportunity cost of exercise for rich individuals is higher than for poor people.

What the Atlantic article seems to find, however, is that being rich or poor is not independent of your body weight. For women, being thin is almost a precondition for being rich. For men, on the other hand, this is not the case.

The cost of obesity for women is even higher when one takes into account non-economic factors. “Obese women in the U.S. are less likely to get married than their normal-weight peers, and about half as likely to attend college. They’re also twice as likely to become ill or depressed as obese men.”

What’s the conclusion? I agree with the author who says: “Given these incentives, is it any wonder that women with more resources tend to use them to avoid the fate of being fat and female in America?”

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