Obesity may signal financial security in poor countries

Obesity may signal financial security in poor countries

richest countries in the world richer people Yes, they are just as thin.

but in Ugandaone of the following poorest nationAccording to an upcoming article in The American Economic Review, where nearly half the population eats fewer calories than they need each day, excess fat is often a sign of wealth and can help get a bank loan.

It should come as no surprise that in places where food is scarce, obesity serves as an important indicator of wealth.

But the new study suggests that information is even scarcer in poorer countries. And in those situations, loan officers use whatever evidence they can find to help them make important financial decisions.

“Given the lack of readily available hard information in poor countries, wealth cues, including obesity, play an important role in economic interactions where individuals seek to evaluate one’s wealth,” said Elisa Macchi, assistant professor of economics at Brown University. “

as part of his researchMs. Macchi did the tests With 238 loan officers in 146 financial institutions in the capital city of Kampala. He asked them to review the applications of hypothetical potential borrowers whose photographs are attached Manipulated to make them appear thinner or fatter.

It is not unusual for people in Uganda to include their photograph when submitting a loan application, and this can be a piece of information that a loan officer uses to decide whether or not to even grant the applicant a first interview. Ms. Macchi said.

What she found was that loan officers were more likely to rate applicants as more creditworthy and more financially sound when a rough version of the photo was attached.

“The obesity premium is large, equivalent to a 60 percent increase in the borrower’s self-reported income in the experiment,” or an additional asset such as car ownership, the study concluded.

Historically, obesity was frowned upon in parts of sub-Saharan Africa. Mauritania was once notorious for the practice of brutally force-feeding young girls to make them more marriageable – a practice called gavage, derived from the French word for force-feeding geese to produce foie gras Is. Fat was considered both a symbol of family wealth and a cultural ideal.

lately, obesity It has become an increasingly worrying health risk on the continent, a development that follows a trend in the wealthiest countries where obesity is more frequent. related to poverty, The easy availability of cheap, highly processed foods that have little nutritional value allows people to satisfy hunger pangs without promoting overall health.

In developing countries, changes in diet, lack of physical activity and the use of different modes of transport, especially in cities, are contributing to weight gain.

“Africa faces a growing problem of obesity and overweight and the trend is on the rise,” Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization’s regional director for Africa, said in a statement last year. “If unchecked, millions of people, including children, will risk living shorter lives under the burden of poor health.”

Research has found that obesity is associated with severe illness and hospitalization of COVID-19 patients.

World Health Organization And other international organizations have begun working with Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda to develop programs and standards to promote healthy diet and physical activity.

However, cultural attachments and stereotypes often persist despite science-based recommendations, such as the belief that abundant fat indicates wealth.

But at least in the case of loan officers in Uganda, facts ultimately outweigh perception. When more concrete information is provided – such as the loan applicant’s income, Collateral and business – Lenders used it, and so-called obesity premiums fell.

“The good thing is it’s not that strong,” Ms. Macchi said of preconceived notions about money and weight. “The moment we give them information, they react to it.”

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