Educational stratification and obesity in midlife : considering the role of sex, social class, and race/ethnicity




Pattison, Evangeleen

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Traditional approaches to understanding the link between education and body mass treat schooling as a black box—universally conceptualizing student outcomes in terms of attainment, as reflected by years of schooling completed or highest credential earned. As a result, previous research investigating the relationship between “education” and body mass does not consider some of the more sociological aspects of the process of schooling. To address this gap in the literature, I consider if individual and institutional attributes interact in ways that have the potential to exacerbate or ameliorate educational disparities in body mass. In doing so, I consider the role of sex, race/ethnicity, and social class given that norms about body mass, in particular what is considered ideal or “appropriate”, varies across segments of the population. Results based on the sophomore cohort of High School and Beyond (1980) suggest that “what” about education matters for body mass differentials and “why” largely depends on who you ask. In general, educational differentiation only predicted obesity in midlife for women at the top at the academic status hierarchy in high school and college, whereas among men, it seems that earning good overall grades in high school and graduating from a four-year college, even if at the lowest tier university, are all that matter.



LCSH Subject Headings