Statistics on Weight Discrimination: A Waste of Talent

Workers who are heavier than average are paid $1.25 less an hour. Over a 40-year career, they will earn up to $100,000 less before taxes than their thinner counterparts (Baum, 2004).

Slightly heavy women make about 6% less in wages than standard weight women. Very heavy women make 24% less. Men experience significant wage penalties only at the highest weight levels. (Roehling, 1999).

Heavier workers are not given raises as often as thinner workers. In a study of over 2000 women and men, wage growth rates were 6% lower in a three-year period for heavier workers. (Loh, 1993).

Young women (ages 18 to 25) employees are especially penalized if they are larger than average, earning 12% less than their thinner counterparts (Register, 1990) and being more likely to be found in low-paying jobs (Pagan, 1997). Other factors were ruled out, and the reason for the difference was found to be social bias and discrimination. (Gortmaker, 1996; Stunkard, 1993).

Of people who were 50% or more above their ideal weight on the height-weight charts, 26% reported they were denied benefits such as health insurance because of their weight, and 17% reported being fired or being pressured to resign because of their weight (Rothblum, 1990).

Hiring prejudice against larger people has been demonstrated consistently in studies using written descriptions, photographs, videotape, and actors. Larger and smaller job applicants were matched for equal qualifications, equal references, and similar personalities. Hiring staff usually chose the thinner applicants with equal qualifications, and made unfounded assumptions about the larger applicants–such as that they were too aggressive, difficult to work with, lacking in self-discipline, less productive, or less determined–even if they had never met or spoken to the applicants. One study, using photographs, showed that prejudice against heavier applicants was found even when faces were obscured, ruling out the factor of facial attractiveness (Pingitore, 1994; Klassen, 1993; Klesges, 1990; Rothblum, 1988; Decker, 1987; Larkin, 1979).

Hire the best person for the job

Job applicants and workers who are larger than average face discrimination and prejudice in every aspect of employment. This discrimination is worse for women, who experience discrimination even if they are just slightly larger than average. Employers are passing over qualified applicants and choosing to hire, promote, and maintain workers who are less qualified simply because of their appearance, and specifically because of their weight. This is resulting in a tremendous waste of worker talent.

If hiring managers and corporate decision-makers could see past false stereotypes and overcome their own biases, they would hire, promote, and maintain the best people for the job, based on qualifications and job performance. Their businesses would benefit greatly from policies that reward job qualifications and performance rather than body size.


Statistics on Discrimination (currently open)
Studies on Discrimination
Rude Businesspeople
Denial of Insurance
Airline Seating
Public Accommodations
Discrimination FAQ
Taking Legal Action
Weight Discrimination Bibliography