You may have heard of the “obesity penalty,” the finding of a 2006 study that linked white woman’s weight gain to a loss in earnings. A new study out of Vanderbilt University seeks to clarity why that penalty exists and the result is disheartening: discrimination.First, the 2004 study: in the Journal of Human Resources, Cornell University’s John Cawley reported his findings that a 65-lb weight gain in white women correlates to nine percent less in earnings.This year, Jennifer Shinall from Vanderbilt University sought to explain that obesity penalty in her study “Why Obese Workers Earn Less: Occupational Sorting and Its Implications for the Legal System.” As NPR reported, Shinall posted three hypotheses why obese women may earn less: choice (meaning women choose to work in lower-paying jobs); producitivity); meaning obese women do not accomplish as much; and discrmination (meaning employers are choosing not to hire obese women).Shinall found that obese women were clustered in jobs involving physical activity — working in the stockroom, for example — rather than jobs which required personal interaction, such as working in sales. Jobs requiring personal interaction tend to pay more than manual labor jobs, which explains why obese women are earning less.Most importantly, though, her research also found that this trend didn’t carry over to obese men, which to Shinall suggested gender discrimination. She theorized to NPR, “Employers don’t mind if an obese man is the face of their company, but they have a very different attitude toward obese women.”Shinall’s study lends support to a stigma that many obese women say they experience: a belief that because they are larger, they are slower, less educated, and less competent. It would be interesting if further studies could delve more into the thought processes of HR departments and employers — and help eradicate this bias from our culture.