Is Obesity in the Eye of the Beholder?

Vida Maralani, Yale University
Douglas McKee, Yale University

Obesity is associated with poorer socioeconomic outcomes. But the application of medically-based categories of body size to the social world seems both arbitrary and limiting. If body size has a causal effect on life chances this would function through the social construction of “fatness” rather than a predefined set of medically motivated groupings of BMI. The evidence suggests that the effect of body size on social outcomes could not only be nonlinear, but could also differ in important ways for different social groups. In this paper, we use change point models to determine empirically where along the continuum of body weight the substantively important relationships between body size and social status actually fall. This approach allows us to estimate flexible and nonlinear relationships between BMI and a set of socioeconomic outcomes and allow the relevant cutoffs for obesity to differ both by group and by socioeconomic outcome.

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Presented in Poster Session 4