Experimental evidence suggests that being obese can have advantages in low-income countries
This study examined how obesity is perceived in terms of economic value in Uganda. It found that in poorer countries like Uganda, obesity is seen as a sign of wealth but not necessarily beauty or good health. Through experiments involving loan officers, the study showed that obese individuals have easier access to credit. This “obesity premium” in accessing credit is significant, akin to increasing reported earnings by 60%. However, this advantage diminishes when more financial information is provided. It’s important to note that both the benefits of obesity and its value as a wealth signal are often overestimated, indicating potential market distortions.
Macchi, Elisa. 2023. “Worth Your Weight: Experimental Evidence on the Benefits of Obesity in Low-Income Countries.” American Economic Review, 113 (9): 2287-2322.