Why Rich Women Don't Get Fat

Sorting weight by demographic group reveals complex and surprising patterns.

In many parts of the world, obesity has become a greater public-health crisis than hunger. Nearly every region has seen dramatic increases in obesity rates over the past few decades. The epidemic is especially prevalent in wealthier countries, though their poorest citizens tend to be the most affected. While this is by and large true in the U.S., sorting by demographic group reveals complex and surprising patterns. When it comes to how income affects weight—and how weight affects income—men and women generally experience inverse effects.

SOURCES: 1. World Health Organization. 2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (data are for adults ages 20 and older). 3. CDC. 4. Roehling et al., “Weight Discrimination and the Glass Ceiling Effect Among Top US CEOs” (Equal Opportunities International, 2009). 5. Dor et al., “A Heavy Burden: The Individual Costs of Being Overweight and Obese in the United States” (George Washington University, Sept. 2010; funded by Allergan, then the manufacturer of the Lap-Band). 6. Gortmaker et al., “Social and Economic Consequences of Overweight in Adolescence and Young Adulthood” (New England Journal of Medicine, Sept. 1993); Crosnoe, “Gender, Obesity, and Education” (Sociology of Education, July 2007); Muennig et al., “Gender and the Burden of Disease Attributable to Obesity” (American Journal of Public Health, Sept. 2006).