Not-so-fat cats: How the rich got thin

Not-so-fat cats: How the rich got thin

I came across an interesting Daily Mail article today (yes it does happen occasionally), which says that fat women are unfairly excluded from top jobs. Now the idea that sexism exists in the workplace, particularly at higher levels, is a bit of a no-brainer, but it got me thinking...

In amongst the statistics from the survey used for this piece came a couple of interesting notes:

Up to 61 per cent of top male bosses were found to be overweight, which is higher than the U.S. average of 41 per cent among similarly aged men.

In sharp contrast, only 22 per cent of female chief executives were categorised as overweight, far less than the national average of 29 per cent.

I was interested to know how these statistics matched up to the national average. Are fat cats actually fat compared to the rest of society?

According to the British Heart Foundation, the answer is no. In the UK around 66% of men are overweight or obese, 56% of women - and this rises significantly when you get into the middle-age range that most managers are in. For management to be alongside the national average, you'd need way more men to be overweight and well over double the number of women.

Disregarding the stark figures on the requirement for women to be slim to get a top job, which is simply par for the course in a society which judges all women disproportionally on their physical appearance, I'm interested in why our lords and masters appear to actually be significantly below the weight of the general population.

This ties in with a favourite theme of mine in Freedom over the last few years. Back in 2006 I put together a statistical comparison using the most up-to-date data available at the time and came up with the following graphic:

What the graphic shows is the massive difference in terms of how long rich and poor people live, and how long they work. If you're working class retirement isn't a right, it's an achievement. Added to this is the equally horrifying figures on disability - on average, the richest fifth of the population live 15-20 years longer without falling victim to a serious disability than the poorest fifth. So your 75-year-old manager is likely to be fit as a fiddle in comparison to your wheezing 55-year-old worker.

Being a capitalist is linked to a longer life with fewer health problems and leaves you physically fitter than the average. You work in comfortable, physically untaxing conditions and retire earlier. For this you are paid vastly more than anyone else in the company, allowing you time and money to pay for fitness coaches, high-quality food cooked healthily, indulge in sporting pursuits, and generally take the opportunity to take care of yourself to extend your life of leisure once you've retired. You're finally put in the best homes, cared for and pampered until the end of your life. No wonder you're slim.

Meanwhile the people you are screwing have little money or time or facilities to eat healthily and keep up an exercise regimen. They work until they are physically spent, in stressful conditions under threat of sacking and at the whim of tyrants, devoid of dignity. They wear themselves out, falling into disability early and dying early to keep the machine funding your lifestyle whirring. If they are 'fortunate' enough to survive into old age, their lack of cash bites them again as they are thrown onto the tender mercies of the state care system, where poorly-paid, overworked carers one generation away from the same fate try and scrape tiny resources into some sort of order to give their wards a minimal standard of life.

This is what the statistics tell us about life under capital before the credit crunch. This was at the absolute pinnacle of the neo-liberal project, where money was flowing and businesses taking on staff. These were the figures of a bull market. And now the bear has come to eat the poor alive while the rich make their getaway.

The fat cats aren't fat any more - but their greed has built a nation of the unhealthy.

Posted By

Rob Ray
Apr 9 2009 11:08


Attached files


Caiman del Barrio
Apr 12 2009 15:33

How are you defining working class, middle class, rich kid? It all seems a little arbitrary to you honestly not believe that middle class kids take gap years?

Rob Ray
Apr 12 2009 17:08

I think I was doing it on income (so middle class kid would be the average of about er, was it 26k a year for a family around then?).

Obviously some middle class kids take gap years, some upper class kids don't, some workers live longer than 70 as well, it's not an exact representation of the entire population at once it's an approximation taking into account the stats i had at the time.

May 1 2009 14:40

I didn't even think about the gap year thing because in my current situation I absolutely have to complete 2 years of college or forfeit my full-ride financial aide. If I took a gap year I could not and my parents could not afford to send me to school. I have never met anyone other than upper-middle class kids and rich kids who can afford to take a year off from school; in my experience, those working kids who take a year off to "save money" tend to end up in debt and not going to school (I know quite a few). And again, the chart is just a prediction based on class.

May 1 2009 19:17

You're incorrectly comparing the US (lax) definition of overweight with the UK (strict) one. I'm almost certain that there are more% overwieight people (by a universal standard) in the US than the UK, so they must be using different definitions of overweight.

Rob Ray
May 1 2009 20:03

I'm using the British Heart Foundation's figures. The Daily Mail is using a combination of US figures and a survey carried out in Britain, so their comparison of 61% to 41% of managers might be inaccurate, but my comparison of 61% to 66% probably isn't.

Feb 20 2013 22:02

The flickr image is gone. Anyone still have it?

Rob Ray
Feb 20 2013 23:17

Wow bit of a blast from the past! Have re-uploaded so just needs admin approval.

Feb 21 2013 08:02

The physically fit among us can still have coronary events much the same as obese folk, for example:

The rich have all the free time they need to get enough sleep, food and exercise. They can even convince themselves that they're cultivating their spirituality which means even further reductions in stress.