Effect of Genetic Propensity for Obesity on Income and Wealth Through Educational Attainment

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This paper shows that a genetic propensity to obesity affects women more than men in the labour market.

The research draws on a representative sample of almost 6,000 Americans aged 50-65 and not yet retired from the US Health and Retirement Study. It looks at factors such as individual income, household wealth, health and retirement outcomes.

It finds those whose genes made them more likely to be obese tended both to earn less money and to have lower household wealth – the effect was greater for wealth than for income. But the effect was greater in both cases for women. One pertinent factor was that a high propensity to obesity was associated with a relatively low level of education.

The study’s results are consistent with earlier findings which show that for men, there is not a significant correlation between weight and income. The greater effect on women’s earnings and family wealth may be explained by discrimination faced by women in the labour market.

Further research is needed into why people with a high genetic propensity for obesity attain relative-ly low levels of education – for instance, are there character traits which are genetically related both to body mass index and to educational attainment? Future studies might also explore whether test-ing for such genetic propensity at an early age would be feasible or desirable so that early intervention might be planned for those at risk.