MacMillan-CSAP Workshop on Quantitative Research Methods: Vida Maralani, “Is Obesity in the Eye of the Beholder? BMI and Socioeconomic Outcomes across Cohorts”

Event time: 
Thursday, November 6, 2014 - 5:00pm through 6:15pm
Event description: 

“Is Obesity in the Eye of the Beholder? BMI and Socioeconomic Outcomes across Cohorts”

Speaker: Vida Maralani, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Yale University

Abstract: We examine the relationship between body mass and three socioeconomic outcomes (wages, the probability of being married, and total net family income) by race and gender using data from the 1979 and 1997 cohorts of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY). We use semi-parametric regression methods to study the relationship between these outcomes and body mass across the full distribution of BMI, rather than relative only to the standard medical thresholds for being overweight or obese. When examined across the full distribution of BMI, the association between socioeconomic outcomes and body mass differs in important ways by social group and cohort. The results show substantial evidence for the social patterning of beauty and body image rather than an obesity penalty. Patterns are more similar by gender in the 1979 cohort and more similar by race by the 1997 cohort. By the 1997 cohort, the evidence is consistent with wider acceptability of larger bodies for black Americans than white Americans.

Vida Maralani studies social stratification and demography with a focus on education, gender, and health. As an overarching goal, her work shows how social inequality and demography are interrelated, and approaches inequality as a process in motion, rather than a static snapshot. Maralani uses a variety of quantitative methods in her research including formal demographic models, simulation methods, and semi-parametric methods. Her work has been published in the leading journals of sociology and demography, including the American Journal of Sociology, American Sociological Review, and Demography, and funded by the Spencer Foundation and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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