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Gender, Obesity, and Education

Obesity is a health condition, but its consequences extend far beyond the realm of health. To illuminate an important route by which the experience of obesity can filter into the status attainment process, this study drew on nationally representative data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health to test a social psychological model of the gendered link between obesity and education.

Obese girls were less likely to enter college after high school than were their nonobese peers, especially when they attended schools in which obesity was relatively uncommon. Additional analyses revealed that increasing rates of internalizing symptoms, self-medication, and academic disengagement explained about one-third of the obese girls’ lower odds of college enrollment.

Obese boys, on the other hand, did not differ from their peers—no matter what their school context—in college enrollment.

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Gender, Obesity, and Education