Physical Traits Can Hurt Pay

Obesity and height can significantly affect how young adults fare in the job market. That's the finding of a recent study by researchers David G. Blanchflower and James D. Sargent of Dartmouth College, who traced the fortunes of a sample of all 18,000 people born in Britain in a single week in 1958.

Other things being equal, the study found that the 10% of women who weighed the most (relative to height) at age 16 averaged 7% lower earnings than their peers at age 23. But women who were less obese but still overweight at 16 suffered no penalty in earnings.

By contrast, height rather than obesity proved to be an important variable in predicting men's earnings. Specifically, those youths who were the shortest at age 16 earned the least at 23, and those who were tallest earned the most on average. The relation held up throughout the height distribution, with 4 inches of added height resulting in an average 2% in additional earnings at age 23.

The findings suggest that physical appearance plays a significant part in the evaluation young adults receive from employers when they first start to work.

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