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Obes Res. 1993 Nov;1(6):425-32.

Can ethnic differences in men's preferences for women's body shapes contribute to ethnic differences in female adiposity?

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  • 1Obesity Research Center, Saint Luke's/Roosevelt Hospital, Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons, New York, NY 10025, USA.


In the United States, obesity is more common among black and Hispanic than white women. One putative cause of this difference is different cultural norms for attractiveness. Two studies assessed ethnic differences in men's perceptions of the attractiveness of females of varying sizes. In the first, 108 men recruited on the New York subway were shown sets of silhouettes depicting female bodies varying in fatness and were asked to pick the silhouette they found most attractive. They were also asked to indicate the thinnest and fattest figures they would consider dating. A measure of "latitude of acceptance" was computed as the difference between the thinnest and fattest figures considered. Results indicated no relationship between ethnicity and preference (F = 1.383, p = .257) or "latitude" (F = .102, p = .903). In Study 2, "personal advertisements" placed by 373 black, 1915 white, 110 Hispanic, and 30 Asian men from 35 newspapers and magazines were coded as: 1) thinness preferred; 2) no information on weight preference; 3) fatness preferred; or 4) states weight or looks unimportant. Results indicated a statistically significant but small association between ethnicity and preference (chi2 = 49.55, df = 9, p < .00001). Relative to white and Asian men, black and Hispanic men more frequently requested fat women, Hispanic men less frequently requested thin women, and black men more frequently stated that looks or weight did not matter. Ethnicity explained only 2.1% of the variance in preference. Thus, it seems unlikely that ethnic differences in men's preferences for women's body shapes contribute substantially to ethnic differences in female adiposity.

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