Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Are Prole Kids Bigger?

I was struck recently by the observation that teenaged males of the lower socio-economic classes seem to be larger than the teenaged males of the upper socio-economic classes.  Not fatter necessarily, and not larger in a weightlifting gym rat kind of way either.  They just seem to have more mass about them.

The GSS data (and by the way, isn’t the GSS just the absolute coolest policy nerd website ever?) is mixed.  Middle and upper class males tend to be over-represented among respondents of average weight, but otherwise no clear pattern emerges.  (Among women, in contrast, the data is nigh linear:  whether measured by WORDSUM, DEGREE, or CLASS, a woman’s weight drops as her intelligence, education, and social class improves.)  The GSS only surveys adults over 18, so it doesn’t really help answering the question directly.  There is the possibility that class differentials in sexual selection account for differentials in size, but I would expect to see the pattern among adults as well as children.

Some possibilities:

  • My generalization is without merit.
  • Behaviors over-represented among lower-class teens – manner and body-language – leverage greater body mass more effectively than do middle-class behaviors, making the mass more noticeable.
  • For reasons we don’t fully understand, intelligence and age of puberty are inversely related.  Lower-class parents give birth to lower-intelligence, faster maturing children who, at any given age between 11 and 17, will be larger than their more intelligent, slower maturing upper-class peers.



Justin said...

I agree with you, Phi, I have observed the same thing. Assuming you just mean in-race differences among Whites, it is still true. I remember being struck by this when I first spent time in Oklahoma (having grown up in Florida). I was like, holy cow, these people are large, even the women, just tall thick-bodied people.

I think there is an ethnic component to it. Looking at the spectrum of European ethnic types, the highly intelligent groups also tend to be the smaller groups. I am thinking English, Scottish, Jewish. These are the upper class children in America.

The prole kids in America are the children of the central European immigrants, of a larger stature, esp. German and Polish. You will notice this pattern among White football linebacker: names like Offerdahl, Romanowski, Urlacher.

I think it also holds even for in-group differences, such as among the English. I heard that Tolkien invented the word Orc as a play on Oxford Rugby Club.

One other data point: I follow high school football, and usually the best football teams are from White middle class neighborhoods. Upper class White schools are good at tennis, swimming, and soccer, but never is an upper class school good at football. My conclusion: middle class White kids, the proles, are just bigger and tougher.

Niko said...

John Komlos

Apparently its just food.

Anonymous said...

Pure anecdote, but when I was dating "Julie" (who lived in a trailer park until she was 14 always lived in prole environs), she had a big brother that would have been considered fat* at my school but was perceived as normal there.

* - He actually fit into the category you're talking about. He wasn't fat. Nor was he muscular. He was just very... thick.

Φ said...

Justin: I looked at several European-origin ethnic backgrounds. There were variations, but nothing stood out. In general, middle-class and average weight were the modal values. That said, I'm not sure if the GSS color codes telling me whether a certain combination is over or underrepresented is only for that particular ethnicities or across the ethnicities being controlled.

Niko: I really enjoyed reading the nutrition article you linked. But the generalization from the article is that good nutrition causes large stature, poor nutrition causes small stature. The implication then is that prole parents are feeding their children better than upper parents, which seems counter-intuitive.