Think that skinny broad in the corner office is capitalizing on her neck cords and jutting collarbones? You might be right.

This is according to a new study I found, via the Wall Street Journal, that shows skinny women make more money than women of average weight. BUT, thin men actually make less money than larger men, who “earn more as they pack on the pounds – all the way to the point where they become obese, when the pay trend reverses,” writes the WSJ’s Sue Schellenbarger.

Timothy A. Judge, of the University of Florida, reportedly looked at separate studies of 11,253 Germans and 12,686 Americans and found that women weighing 25 pounds less than the group average earned an average $15,572 a year more than women of normal weight. Women’s earnings diminished the more they weighed. A woman who gained 25 pounds above the average weight earned an average $13,847 less than an average-weight female.

The findings for men, however, went in the opposite direction. So thin males earned $8,437 less than average-weight men, and their pay went up as they got heavier. This ebbed as they hit obese levels.

In the paper, titled When It Comes to Pay, Do the Thin Win? The Effect of Weight on Pay for Men and Women, (co-author Daniel M Cable of the London Business School), it is pointed out that the findings don’t prove employer discrimination. The authors write, “it is possible that employee performance is the causal mechanism linking weight and income, although at first brush it is difficult to understand why women’s performance would decrease most as they moved from being very thin to average weight, whereas men’s performance would increase most with these same weight gains. However, perhaps the weight–income trends that we observed are due to performance in the sense that employees are more able to influence others and get things accomplished when they conform to the media’s ideal body form. In this sense, employees who conform to societal body expectations may perform better, and employers may simply be rewarding good performance in a non-discriminatory manner.”

The authors urge employers to try to recognize and reduce the role that weight plays in their employment decisions.


Weight-based discrimination in the workplace is not a band new area of study. In 2009, the National Post reported that Yale researcher Rebecca Puhl had found obese people face discrimination at every stage of the employment process, from getting hired to getting fired. Puhl reportedly said that the obese are likely to get less pay for equal work and that “striking” experimental studies show people “would rather hire an unqualified thin person than a qualified overweight person with better credentials.”

How about you? Have you ever felt that you were treated better or worse because of your weight? Have you made decisions based on another person’s weight?