Are you a fat boy? Get to university now, you penniless slacker
Rotund types paid nearly 20% less than people who didn't eat all the pies
Being a fat teenager is not pleasant. Your school chums will bully you, adults and kids will fat-shame you and you’ll live in a perpetual nightmare of sweaty guilt and impotent rage, punctuated by periodic beatings and ritual humiliation. And to make things even worse, you’ll earn less than everyone else when you grow up.
Researchers already knew that girls who are obese pay the price for it when they enter the labour market as young women, because girls obviously need yet another reason to get paid less than men for doing the same work. But now they’ve figured out that the same thing happens to boys.
Not to older men, though. Older men can be as fat as they like without suffering any career problems.
This negative impact on earnings only happens to guys if they’re fat when they’re younger, like if they’ve been fat since they were kids. Those guys earn 18 per cent less than their peers of “normal weight”, according to research carried out on 150,000 Swedish brothers.
The young men, who took part in mandatory military service in Sweden between 1984 and 1997, were psychoanalysed while in the army and subjected to intelligence tests. Researchers cross-referenced that data against their annual earnings as men. The results were then compared with data from the British National Child Development Study and the US National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979.
The authors of the Swedish study reckon that being obese is so crappy for the lads that it’s equivalent to not bothering with a university education.
"To put this figure into perspective, the estimated return to an additional year of schooling in Sweden is about six per cent. The obesity penalty thus corresponds to almost three years of schooling, which is equivalent to a university bachelor's degree," they said.
So is all that fat weighing on their brains or what? No, that’s the discrimination and fat-shaming talking. What’s actually happening is that the boys end up with lower cognitive skills and crushed motivation, self-confidence and sociability because their peers and teachers at school bullied and tormented all the self-esteem out of them. That’s also probably why the wage gap is focused on men who were fat when young instead of those that got portlier as time went on.
Sadly, although the researchers recognise this, their answer, at least according to their statement, is to institute “policies and programs [that] target overweight and obesity problems”, particularly for low income families. They don’t make any mention of policies and programs to target discrimination and bullying in schools.
But that might not matter, because the researchers also think that because there’s so much anti-fat discrimination, chubby boys aren’t getting good jobs and that’s why they’re making so little money. Or it might be that having lower intelligence and self-esteem is what caused them to get fat in the first place.
“Distinctly identifying the causal underlying mechanisms behind the relationship between body size and skills is beyond the scope of the present article”, the authors said in their study.
But just so we’re clear: if you’re a teen, don’t be fat. And if you’re a fat teen, don’t get bullied. And if you’re not as smart as your mates, don’t overeat to cope. And if you’re from a low income family that has trouble maintaining healthy eating habits, enlist in a policy or program that targets you. Then you might be okay, and you can spend all the extra money you’ve made getting fat later – once you have a good job. ®
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