Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity

Economic Implications of Weight Stigma

In addition to suffering emotional and social consequences, obese individuals face economic disadvantages as a result of weight bias. The costs of weight stigma range from lower wages and fewer job and educational opportunities, to reduced access to quality health care.

The workplace is the most prevalent setting for weight discrimination. Overweight people may face biased hiring decisions even before they reach a job interview. Research shows that when a resume is accompanied by a picture or video, the overweight applicant is judged more negatively and is less likely to be hired. Promotion and firing are also influenced by weight discrimination. Research shows that employers see their overweight workers as poor role models; they describe overweight employees as lazy, sloppy, lacking in self-discipline, less competent and less conscientious. On average, obese individuals occupy lower-paying jobs and receive lower wages for the same jobs than their normal-weight counterparts. Women in the workplace bear a disproportionate amount of this impact.

The Rudd Center is studying the negative economic impact of weight stigma on employment, health and medical care, as well as working to quantify weight stigma’s potential role in reducing family support during old age or illness.