Overweight Women More Likely To Have Low-Paying Jobs Than Overweight Men

In this  June 17, 2013  photo, two women cross the street in Barre, Vt. In its biggest policy change on weight and health to
In this June 17, 2013 photo, two women cross the street in Barre, Vt. In its biggest policy change on weight and health to date, the American Medical Association has recognized obesity as a disease. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)

Fat shaming can have economic consequences.

As a woman gets heavier, her chances of working in a low-paying, physically taxing job grow, according to a new study from Jennifer Shinall, a law professor at Vanderbilt University. But weight doesn’t have nearly as much bearing on the type of job a man lands.

Though obese men are more likely than men of average weight to work in lower-paying, physical jobs, the effect isn't nearly as strong as it is for women. As a result, obese women make $7 less than their average-weight counterparts, while obese men make just $2 less.

“It absolutely suggests that weight is much more of a consideration in the labor market for women than it is for men,” Shinall told The Huffington Post in an interview.

Shinall’s findings add to the growing body of evidence that physical attributes play a depressingly large role in the lives of working women, no matter how they look. Very skinny women tend to get paid more. Hiring committees penalize attractive women by not calling them for interviews.

Such factors typically add to the broader discrimination women already face at work. Research shows women earn less than men in the same roles and are also more likely to work in low-paying fields.

Many female-dominated, low-wage jobs, such as home health care and child care, are where obese and morbidly obese women are most likely to end up, Shinall’s study found.

"Those are the only jobs that are available for the heaviest women in the labor market," she said.

For her study, Shinall analyzed occupation, health and population data for 10,007 women and 8,928 men. She found that, the heavier women get, the more likely they'll end up working in jobs that require more physical activity.

The opposite is true for women seeking jobs in fields that involve a lot of personal interaction, such as sales. Women become less likely to land those roles the more overweight they are. Morbidly obese women who do get jobs in such fields are paid about 5 percent less, on average, than other women, even controlling for factors like education, the study found.

For men, on the other hand, being heavier can actually boost earnings in some jobs. Overweight men working in more physical jobs make about 4 percent more, on average, than their average-weight colleagues, according to the study.

Shinall said she suspects that one of the main reasons obese and morbidly obese women tend to cluster in low-paying, strenuous jobs is because of discrimination in hiring for white-collar roles. Companies may not want an overweight woman representing them to customers, she said, and it's also possible that the person doing the hiring may not want to work with an obese woman.