Racial Differences in the Influence of Female Adolescents’ Body Size on Dating and Sex

Mir Ali, University of Toledo
Frank Heiland, Baruch College, City University of New York (CUNY)

This paper investigates the effect of body size, measured by a person’s Body Mass Index and obesity status, on dating and sexual experiences of white and African American female adolescents. Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health, we estimate the effects of BMI and obesity on the probability of having had sex, being in a romantic relationship, and other important dating and sexual experiences. We find that obese white female adolescents are less likely to be in a romantic relationship compared to their non-obese counterparts. In addition, conditional on having dating experience, obese white girls are less likely to have been intimate and to have had sex. We find no significant differences in relationship experiences and sexual behaviors between obese and non-obese black female adolescents. These findings are novel and contribute to the emerging literature on the consequences of obesity and the racial differences in beauty norms.

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Presented in Session 85: The Association Between Body Weight, Pubertal Timing and Adolescent Sexual Behavior