Saturday, February 13, 2010

Ethnic differences in waist-to-hip ratio

Women participating in the Midlife Development in the United States Study (2004-06) were measured for waist-to-hip ratio (WHR). A ratio of 0.7 is considered to be ideal for health and attractiveness. Here are means by race/ethnic group (N = 1,891).  

Mean waist-to-hip ratio

Mexican .88
Amerindian .88
French .87
Black .86
Scottish .86
Swedish .86
English .85
Irish .85
Polish .85
Russian .85
Norwegian .84
German .84
Asian .84
Jewish .84
Italian .83

The differences seem small, but the gap between Italian and Mexican Americans is sixth-tenths of a standard deviation. The groups are roughly 1 1/2 to 2 standard deviations above the ideal--they're all fat--but keep in mind that this is a sample of middle-aged women, with most of the sample between the ages of 40 and 60. 


  1. I'm somewhat surprised Italians are so low.

  2. Anonymous1:24 PM

    I'd expect a little effect from Allen's Rule, I think, on waist size where less tropical populations have somewhat more linear (and less curved) builds.

    See where "Proportions of European ancestry (PEAs) was positively correlated with BMI-adjusted waist circumference." though negatively correlated with BMI.

    Probably rather weak compared to in population variation though from the context of this information.

  3. I'm somewhat surprised Italians are so low.

    I previously found something similar for younger women. I think natural selection for beauty was strongest around the circum-Mediterranean "jealousy belt" region for several reasons.

  4. "I think natural selection for beauty was strongest around the circum-Mediterranean "jealousy belt" region for several reasons."

    Beauty and sexiness do not necessarily correlate. For whatever reason, northern European women are notable for beauty, while Mediterranean women are big on sexiness.

    I guess most people's idea of sexiness includes being hot-tempered, impulsive, extroverted, and Mediterraneans of both sexes are more likely to be that than northerners. This can't by itself explain why Med women are considered sexier than all others because Africans are even more hot-tempered than they are.

    What is the Darwinian explanation for feminine beauty (as distinct from sexiness) being more common among northern Europeans? No idea.

    As for the waste-to-hip ratio, it can't be a good measure of obesity because if it was, Asian women would have had by far the lowest score. In that table they're third from the bottom instead.

  5. What if you segmented your analysis by age?

    Also, I wonder if strict ratio comparisons are misleading. What about comparing waist and hip sizes separately? Two women might have similar ratios, but there is a big difference if one has a 25" waist and the other has a 32" waist.

    Thanks for your work!

  6. Anonymous3:24 PM

    Why is BLACK listed but every other race is listed specificly?? A fucking rude!!

    1. Asian got lumped together too and Jewish is a religion. This study is flawed. I'll investigate further starting with Armeninian girls who are curvy as hell and finishing with Zimbabwe who I'm sure has some thick honeys.

    2. Anonymous11:03 PM

      Ashkenazi Jews are an ethnoreligious group.

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