Weighed down

Obese girls are only half as likely as their normal-weight classmates to go on to college, according to University of Texas at Austin sociologist Robert Crosnoe. The effect is worse if there are few overweight girls at the school and goes away if 20 percent of classmates are overweight. Obesity doesn’t affect boys’ likelihood of going to college.

Recent research has shown that overweight youngsters are often teased, ostracized and isolated by their peers, and are sometimes treated differently by teachers and even parents. According to Crosnoe, children often internalize this negative social feedback — whether real or perceived — which can lead to alcohol and drug use, failure in school, truancy and suicidal thoughts. “They are just unhappy at school,” he says, “and it does things to them in the present that have long-term consequences.”

I wonder which comes first: The extra pounds or the unhappiness?

In the adult world, obesity is not contagious, writes William Saletan in Slate, responding to a new study that people tend to gain weight when their friends get fatter and lose if their friends slim down. Forget the politically correct spin, he writes:

Obesity spreads culturally, individual decisions are crucial, and responsibility and stigma are part of the solution.

Having fat friends apparently changes individual’s “perception of the social norms regarding the acceptability of obesity.” Also they invite you out for beer and pizza.

About Joanne


  1. How early does the socio-economic link between lower income and obesity start? Is any other explanation necessary?

  2. The researchers tried to factor out income and race.

  3. Richard Nieporent says:

    This study can be critiqued in two words: junk science. Actually, that is giving the study much more credit than it deserves. What they have done is to find statistical anomalies in the data and published it as if it had some meaning. However if you choose to believe this study I have good news for you, this non-problem will soon be solved.

    …obese girls who went to high school with a sizable overweight population — where heavy girls represented about 20% of the student body — had normal odds of attending college.

    ”Currently, 17% of U.S. adolescents are overweight, double what it was in the 1980s, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.”

    Since we will soon reach this magic number of 20% the “problem” will disappear. Quick, go to the supermarket and buy chips and soda. Do if you the sake of all those rotund female teenagers. With your help we will lick this problem in no time.

    When I become supreme ruler I will issue an edict forbidding social scientists from using statistics. If caught doing so I will inflict the worse punishment on them I can think of. I will force them to get a degree in mathematics before they can publish any paper that uses statistics. That should eliminate about 99% of them. Allowing sociologist to use statistics is like given a loaded gun to a child. The best you can hope for is that nobody gets killed.

  4. Maybe a better punishment would be to make them all fat!

  5. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Research shows that researchers will report adversly on the girls who turn them down. If only I could keep a straight face; there must be money in research.

  6. Nels Nelson says:

    When I was in high school we had a single “fat kid” in a school of about 600. A good number of students smoked cigarettes, and a large minority used pot. Nowadays, apparently, smoking and drug use are way down, and obesity is up. Maybe addressing the underlying problems, rather than making teachers and students more understanding of overweight kids, would be a better solution.

  7. How were the kids classified as “obese”? Did he correct for pregnancy?

  8. Sitting at a desk peering at a computer late into the night, working at a high stress job for twenty-five years, and putting in 70-90 hour work weeks in high tech is what makes you fat in the Valley…not having fat friends. Exercise? Yea…right. Ever try to raise a family, launch high tech products, eat right, and exercise? It doesn’t happen unless you have a stay-at-home spouse to handle the family side.

    How many programmers past the age of 40 do you know who happen to have abs?

    And then, when you hit that magic “45” number in S.V., it is time to lay you off…just in time to let you get to the gym before COBRA kicks in.

    Sounds to me like the groundwork is being laid for dismissal based on weight. It will be even “better” if coworkers can be convinced to disassociate from the stressed overweight person because the act of being a friend to that person might result in obesity spreading.

    As another poster said, this is junk.

  9. Deirdre Mundy says:

    I’ve been wondering —

    Did researchers correct for things like thyroid conditions (can add weight AND effect IQ)?

    Because looking back on high school, actually OBESITY in a teenage girl was pretty rare… A relatively active teen in the middle of the growing years can usually eat CONSTANTLY, still be hungry, and not gain weight…

    So could obesity in teens be related to other metabolic conditions that might make school work/ extra curriculars/ the college application process more difficult?

  10. BadaBing says:

    47.9% of all statistical studies are wrong anyway.

  11. Dierdre: All it takes is looking at a modern high school class to know that things have changed. Too many of them (both boys and girls) aren’t “relatively active” anymore, and it shows…

  12. Walter E. Wallis says:

    What is the difference between an obese girl and a fat chic?
    Years ago, when garages were still allowed calendars, there was one company whose calendars featured Junoesques. It seemed to be popular.

  13. Walter E. Wallis says:

    I almost mentioned the fat chich motor scooter thing but good taste and fear stopped me.