The Penalty of Obesity on Grade Point Average: Evaluating Mechanisms through Variation by Gender, Race, and School Subject
Amelia R. Branigan, Northwestern University
Why obesity would be associated with grade point average (GPA) but not with test-based measures of achievement remains a puzzle. Here, I test whether the associations between obesity and GPA across race, sex, and academic course subjects follow patterns expected if the relationship functions largely through social pathways. I hypothesize a larger negative association between obesity and GPA for girls in English, where femininity is privileged, than in math, where femininity is perceived to be a detriment. Among White girls in the National Longitudinal Study of Youth 1997, obesity in high school is associated with a significantly larger GPA penalty in English than in math, while no subject difference is found for White boys or minorities of either sex. This study adds to a growing literature suggesting that the relationship between obesity and socioeconomic outcomes may result in large part from how institutions interact differently with bodies of different sizes.