Things That Make You Go Hmmm . . . .
The March Atlantic Monthly has an interesting blurb about increasing wage discrimination against overweight white women, based on a report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Even more interesting than the finding of wage discrimination was the finding that the rate of being overweight and obese in white females has increased from 12.6% in 1981 to 50.4% in 2000. Perhaps I’ve been living under a rock, but this seems to me a shocking jump, and during a period when my impression was that the U.S. was paying increasing attention to healthy diets and exercise. It’s not entirely clear where the primary source found the data on overweight and obese women; the weight gain findings are mentioned only in the context of a dataset that examines the weight of a cohort of women over time through annual and then biennial self-reporting interviews. I can’t imagine the report based the weight-gain statistics on this crowd, given that these women are likely to gain weight as they get older and therefore don’t strike me as a reliable subset from which to extrapolate to the population as a whole. Any thoughts from statisticians and others on the source and reliability of these data?