BMI and Net Worth

How being Over-Weight affects your Net Worth

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In 2005, Jay Zagorsky published a study showing a compelling relationship between a person's Body Mass Index (BMI) and their overall financial net worth. Zagorsky used a large U.S. longitudinal socio-economic survey to compare BMIs with net worth. Though all races did not show the same strong correlation, he uncovered a large negative association between BMI and net worth for white females, a smaller negative association for black women and white males, and no relationship between BMI and net worth for black males. Individuals who lost small amounts of weight experienced little change in their net worth, but those who lost large amounts of weight had a dramatic improvement in their financial position, with whites showing larger changes in net worth than blacks. Gaining weight resulted in a loss of wealth and returning to a prior healthy weight restored a person’s financial losses.

The study showed that highest net worth for white females was at the low end of the normal BMI range (BMI 20) as opposed to white males whose highest net worth was at the upper end of of the normal BMI range (BMI 24). Females with BMIs lower than the healthy range, had a fall off in net worth that was much steeper than females with higher BMIs. The graph below shows the wealth relationship to BMI for white men and women. Blacks did not show the same strong correlation of BMI and financial net worth in the study.

Graph BMI and Networth

Small weight losses did not impact wealth much, but the study found that when a boomer aged person decreased their weight by 5.8 BMI points from the overweight range (BMI 27.5) to normal weight range (BMI 21.7), their net wealth improved by more than $4000. A 10 point decrease in BMI resulted in a wealth increase of $12,720 for white males and $11,880 for white females.

To put the $12,720 increase into perspective, that amount was 25% of the average balance of Fidelity retirement savers’ 401K accounts in 2008.

White women had the greatest correlation in financial net worth and their BMI. For married couples, the couple's overall financial net worth was more dictated by the wife's BMI then the husband's BMI. In other words, an obese white woman reduced the overall net worth of the family.

There are numerous theories as to why BMI is correlated to net worth. Some claim that overeaters are also over spenders. Others claim that thin, white women and to a lesser extent, thin white men are rewarded in most jobs with more income.

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