I recently discovered that the CDC has Anthropometric Reference Data (PDF), otherwise known as various body measurements (height, weight, waist, etc) broken down by age, gender, and percentiles.
Personally I find this data fascinating. The height tables, for example, were a wake-up call. At 68″ tall I know, intellectually, that I’m on the tall side for a woman. But unlike, say, jr high, I feel that I’m about average height.
Looking at the data on women age 20 and older, measured in inches (table 10) tells a different tale:
50% are shorter than 63.8
75% are shorter than 65.6
95% are shorter than 68.2
Huh? I’m taller than 95% of women? Since when? (And why are “regular length” women’s pants aimed at someone 67″ tall and “petite” for someone 64″ tall?) My brain was actually boggled by this. Do women grow taller here? Then I realize: I work in … software. I work mostly with … men. Men tend to be taller. Oh. I skipped down to the data for men (table 12) and realized that’s where I usually compare myself:
25% are shorter than 65.6
50% are shorter than 69.4
75% are shorter than 71.5
There’s the weight table. Again, all US women age 20+ in pounds (table 4, pregnant women excluded) shows that 85% of women weigh less than 207lbs. (95% weigh less than 250lbs.)
Of course, the census estimates that the US also has a population of 304 million and that by 2010 there will be over 120 million women age 18 and over (PDF). Even if there’s only 100 million adult women that’s still 15 million women, which means that Oprah is not alone. But it does help me understand why she freaked out about weighing 200lbs. Or why people have no idea what 300lbs looks like.