Body Capital and Socioeconomic Mobility

In the context of a cultural economy that values thinness over fatness along moral and aesthetic dimensions, the body can serve as a repository for individual differentiation and status distinctions. Moreover, bodily form can affect life chances, operating, like cultural capital, as an informal basis for contemporary social closure practices, which function to delimit individual attainments. Preliminary data from economic studies have shown that weight status can affect attainments ranging from education level to wages and household income (Averett and Korenman 1996; Cawley 2000; Gortmaker et al. 1993; Register and Williams 1990; Sargent and Blanchflower 1994). Hence, weight status is not just a matter of health; it also is a matter of social status and a potential source of capital for socioeconomic attainments and individual mobility. This project will use data from the Health and Retirement Survey (HRS) to explore the inter-relationships between weight status, SES/class, and mobility. The aims of this pilot are: to determine the cross-sectional relationships between weight status and SES/class and conduct cross-cohort comparisons to evaluate secular shifts in the relationships over time; to determine the effect of weight status on mid-life SES/class; to determine the effect of changes in SES/class/wealth on changes in weight status, illustrating the underlying reciprocal nature of the relationship; and to determine the relative contributions of SES of origin and current SES to current weight status.
Funded By: 
Award Dates: 
July 1, 2005 - June 30, 2006
PARC Grant Year: 
Year 12