CBS Local — Obesity is a real problem in the United States, one that leads to the stereotype that all Americans are fat. According to a new study posted in Psychological Science, if someone of Asian descent is overweight, they are more likely assumed to be American by Americans.

Researchers showed 1,000 college students diverse photos of men and women and the participants had to make assumptions of their nationality. The study found that those who were overweight of Asian background were more likely perceived to be American citizens.


“We found that there was a paradoxical social benefit for Asian-Americans, where extra weight allows them to be seen as more American and less likely to face prejudice directed at those assumed to be foreign,” said co-author Caitlin Handron.

The researchers found that Asians who were heftier were not only more likely to be perceived as being born in America, but to also possibly be a naturalized citizen.

The study did not find a similar correlation for black, white, nor Latino individuals.

One takeaway for Handron was that it could be considered a “social benefit” for Asian-Americans to be heavy-set because they are then assumed to be American. As a result, it’s possible they won’t face the same prejudices some may have towards foreigners.

The study also found that other thoughts many have about American identity are “outdated” and centered around whether someone has a Caucasian heritage or not.

“In the U.S., there is a strong bias associating American identity with whiteness, and this can have negative consequences for people of color in the U.S.,” said co-author Caitlin Handron. “We wanted to see whether ideas of nationality are malleable and how body shape factors into these judgments.”