Social Science: The Boss Hogg Hypothesis Confirmed

You know how political cartoons and other stylistic portrayals of political corruption often depict the offending office holders as fat? (It’s the only kind of “fat-shaming” still allowed, I think.) Well, some social scientists got to wondering, and came up with the following article—which I swear is for real—published last week in the journal Economics of Transition and Institutional Change:

Obesity of politicians and corruption in post‐Soviet countries

Pavlo Blavatskyy, University of Montpellier, France


We collected 299 frontal face images of 2017 cabinet ministers from 15 post‐Soviet states (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan). For each image, the minister’s body‐mass index is estimated using a computer vision algorithm. The median estimated body‐mass index of cabinet ministers is highly correlated with conventional measures of corruption (Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index, World Bank worldwide governance indicator Control of Corruption, Index of Public Integrity). This result suggests that physical characteristics of politicians such as their body‐mass index can be used as proxy variables for political corruption when the latter are not available, for instance at a very local level.

I’m calling this confirmation of the Boss Hogg Hypothesis. What would we do without social science?

P.S. The entire article is behind a paywall, but can be yours for just $42. I need the money for my snack foods, though.

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