Gender, Body Mass, and Economic Outcomes: Chinese Social Change and Weight Penalty

Chih-Chien Huang, Arizona State University
Stephanie Ayers, Arizona State University
Jennie J. Kronenfeld, Arizona State University

China has experienced the burden of obesity since the last decade of the 20th century. China’s social and economic reform, beginning in 1978, accelerated capitalism and the availability of energy-dense, high fat foods as well as opened the door to Western ideas, including body image. This paper examines the economic outcomes of two cohorts; the generation born before the post-Mao economic reform of 1978 and those born after 1978. We hypothesize that young adults with a heavier weight, born after 1978, are more likely to be exposed to weight penalties in socioeconomic outcomes, and the association is independent from health limitations and productivity. Methods: Data analyzed from individuals ages 17-31, in the China Health and Nutrition Survey (CHNS), years 1997-2009. Linear fixed-effects regression estimates the net effects of body mass index on economic outcomes—wages. All analyses are stratified by gender and cohort.

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Presented in Poster Session 5: Economy, Labor Force, Education and Inequality