Sunday, January 04, 2009

Perceived weight by ethnic group:  General Social Survey interviewers recorded perceptions of their respondent's weight, ranging from "below average" (=1) to "considerably above average" (=4).  In contrast to scales, measuring weight in this way allows us to see how people are perceived by others.  I calculated the means for all ethnic groups with at least 30 respondents in the sample:

Mean weight score
Mexican 2.37
Blacks 2.33
Italian 2.32
French 2.32
American Indian 2.29
English/Welsh 2.22

USA 2.21

Irish 2.23
German 2.19
Polish 2.14
Scottish 2.10
Jewish 2.02
Chinese 1.83

SD 0.63

As we saw in a post on scale-measured weight, Mexican Americans are the heaviest group. The objective and subjective match up.  Blacks, the other large NAM, are next; American Indians are fifth.  Next heaviest are those of southern European descent.  Northern and eastern Europeans are next, followed by Jews.  Chinese Americans--no surprise--are the skinniest.  The pattern follows social class ranking. The difference between Mex-Ams and Chinese folks is almost one standard deviation.   


  1. While it kind of makes sense, you do realize this is a self-report, right?

  2. Weight is interviewer assessed. They don't ask respondents anything.

  3. It's interesting to contrast perceived weight by ethnic group with healthy body fat levels by ethnic group. Perceived weight may in fact be the visual appearance of someone being unhealthily fat, which varies by ethnic group. So your "skinny appearing" Chinese may weigh about as much as the "fat appearing" NAMs (of the same height) because the former are going to carry the weight better (i.e. in the places that aren't associated with nasty conditions like diabetes and hypertension).

    Put another way, if we put the visual assessments of how "heavy" someone is under a microscopic, or rather on a scale, they may well be proven false. We don't see how many pounds someone ways, we basically just see how healthy they are. Health precedes pounds and kilograms. The scores that came up in the GSS more likely reflect how different ethnic groups have adjusted (or not) to the biological oddball of the high-grain diet.

  4. Many of the Hispanics I see are overweight, however relatively few are grossly fat. Morbid obesity seems to be found primarily among whites.

    As for Chinese vs. Mexicans, as I understand it Chinese and other Asians actually suffer obesity-related health consequences at lower BMI's than other races. One might say that they generally stay slim or of normal weight because they have to.

  5. Anonymous6:19 AM

    "Morbid obesity seems to be found primarily among whites."

    Get off the train in Newark...

  6. Well Peter, the link I gave for Steve Sailer seems to say the opposite. Was it really East Asians that have lower healthy body fat levels?

  7. Sgt. Joe Friday1:45 PM

    Another reason to get that fence built - it'll cut down on eye pollution.

  8. Eh...let's face it, whatever they serve you at the restaurant, traditional Chinese food is rice with a little cabbage and fish. I would occasionally come upon the restaurant workers eating during a break and they mostly ate veggies and rice.

    And don't make this into an ethnic conspiracy--if they served healthy food, they'd go out of business.


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