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Obese Ugandans more favored by loan officers - new study

Check your mirror; grab your weighing scale. If you think you got on some extra weight, then you might stand a better chance of securing yourself a loan.

Obese Ugandans stand a better chance at securing a loan according to a new study

This makes part of a soon to be published study by The American Economic Review, which found that in Uganda, excess fat is considered a sign of financial security by loan officers.

Researchers who sampled over 230 loan officers at 146 financial institutions in Kampala, found that due to poor information gathering mechanisms, loan officers often resort to whatever sort of evidence they can find to help make critical decisions, including the body weight of the potential borrower.

Elisa Macchi, an economics professor at Brown University who carried out the study says she was told that wealth signals, including obesity, play a crucial role in economic interactions where individuals seek to evaluate someone’s wealth.

While engaging the Kampala loan officers, the professor says she came up with fictionalized potential borrowers whose accompanying photographs were manipulated so they appeared thin or fat, and she asked the officers to process them.

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She discovered that the loan officers were more likely to rate the applicants as more creditworthy and more financially sound when the obese version of the photograph was attached.

The obesity premium is large, equivalent to the effect of a 60 percent increase in borrower self-reported income in the experiment or an additional asset like ownership of a car,” Macchi told the New York Times.

Historically in Uganda and most African countries, obesity has always been considered both a sign of family wealth and a cultural ideal.

Recently however, it has become an increasingly worrisome health risk on the continent, a development that follows the trend in the richest nations, where obesity is often correlated with poverty. The easy availability of cheap, highly processed foods that have little nutritional value allows people to satisfy hunger pangs without promoting overall health.

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Africa is facing a growing problem of obesity and overweight, and the trends are rising,” warns Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization’s regional director for Africa,

Moeti cautions that if unchecked, millions of people, including children, risk living shorter lives under the burden of poor health..

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