Body weight and academic achievement: The role of weight diversity in urban middle schools.

The current study was designed to examine one possible weight stigma-reduction mechanism: school-level weight diversity. It was hypothesized that greater weight diversity among same-sex peers at school would attenuate the negative association between weight and academic achievement. Across 26 urban public middle schools, 5,991 sixth-grade students (52% girls) were included: 12% African American/Black, 14% East/Southeast Asian, 30% Latino, 21% White, and 23% from other specific ethnic groups. Weight diversity was estimated as the likelihood that two randomly selected students would be from different weight categories, using Simpson’s index. Standardized achievement test scores and grade point average (GPA) were used to assess academic achievement. Consistent with our contextual moderator hypothesis, high levels of weight diversity at school served a protective function. The negative association between body mass index (BMI) and achievement test scores, as well as GPA (girls only) was nonsignificant at schools with high levels of weight diversity. The study results offer a potential explanation for inconsistent findings regarding body weight and achievement, and a novel methodological approach to capture weight diversity in ways that provide new insights for school-based interventions. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)