Last week the National Institutes for Health awarded nearly a half million dollars to the Magee-Womens Research Institution and Foundation for a four-year study on the dating lives of chubby girls versus skinny girls. According to the research project description:

Mounting evidence demonstrates that weight influences intimate (i.e., dating and sexual) relationship formation and sexual negotiations among adolescent girls. Obese girls consistently report having fewer dating and sexual experiences, but more sexual risk behaviors (i.e., condom nonuse) once they are sexually active. …no studies have actually examined whether the interpersonal skills and intimate relationships of obese and non-obese girls differ.

Thankfully, our taxpayer dollars are helping fill that void with the forthcoming study called “The Role of Romantic Relationships in the Sexual Behavior of Obese and Non-obese Girl [sic]. “

But let’s consider that there’s likely a very good reason why no study has been conducted on this subject—rather, no study funded by voluntary donors instead of taxpayers: what’s the point?

I’d venture to guess no study has been conducted on why skinny boys in the math club have different dating experiences than star athletes.

But the NIH lists more than 100 similar projects it’s funded to the tune of nearly $42 million by my tally in recent years. These gems include studies on:

  • Mothers and girls dancing together
  • The influence of energy drinks on sexual behavior in adolescents
  • Getting sedentary middle school girls to move

Serious research with a clear purpose and stated benefit is something private foundations pay for every day. Certainly, getting grants is not easy, but that’s as it should be. Competing with other worthwhile projects makes research better. 

Competing for private funding helps keep politics out of legitimate scientific work—and government out of hardworking taxpayers’ pockets.