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Obesity as a Barrier to the Transition from Welfare to Work

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  • John Cawley
  • Sheldon Danziger

Abstract

This paper utilizes a rich longitudinal data set -- the Women's Employment Study (WES) to investigate whether obesity, which is common among women of low socioeconomic status, is a barrier to employment and earnings for current and former welfare recipients. We find evidence that, among current and former welfare recipients, high body weight is a greater barrier to labor market success for white women than for African-American women. Among white women, we consistently find a negative correlation between weight and labor market outcomes such as employment, hours worked, and earnings. Among African American women, weight is not correlated with employment, hours worked, or earnings, but it is correlated with the percentage of months spent on welfare between interviews. We provide suggestive evidence that these differences between white and African-American women in the relationship between body weight and labor market outcomes are partly due to differential weight-based discrimination in employment.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 10508.

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Date of creation: May 2004
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Publication status: published as Cawley, John, and Sheldon Danziger. "Morbid Obesity and the Transition From Welfare to Work." Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Fall 2005, 24(4): 727-743.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10508

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  1. Susan Averett & Sanders Korenman, 1993. "The Economic Reality of the Beauty Myth," NBER Working Papers 4521, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Rebecca M. Blank, 2002. "Evaluating Welfare Reform in the United States," NBER Working Papers 8983, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. John Cawley, 2004. "The Impact of Obesity on Wages," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(2).
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Cited by:
  1. Lene Kromann, 2009. "Does Employee Body Weight Affect Employers' Behavior?," Economics Working Papers 2009-04, School of Economics and Management, University of Aarhus.
  2. Hübler, Olaf, 2006. "The Nonlinear Link between Height and Wages: An Empirical Investigation," IZA Discussion Papers 2394, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Brunello, Giorgio & D'Hombres, Beatrice, 2007. "Does body weight affect wages?: Evidence from Europe," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 5(1), pages 1-19, March.
  4. Rajeev Goel, 2006. "Obesity: An economic and financial perspective," Journal of Economics and Finance, Springer, vol. 30(3), pages 317-324, September.
  5. Lopez-Pablos, Rodrigo A., 2008. "Notas sobre Descomposiciones Microeconométricas: Un Análisis Antropométrico
    [Notes on Microeconometric Decompositions: An Anthropometric Analysis]
    ," MPRA Paper 8222, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  6. Kristin F. Butcher & Kyung H. Park, 2008. "Obesity, disability, and the labor force," Economic Perspectives, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, issue Q I, pages 2-16.
  7. Lopez-Pablos, Rodrigo A., 2007. "Health Econometric: Uncovering the Anthropometric Behavior on Women's Labor Market," MPRA Paper 5961, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 26 Nov 2007.
  8. Michael T. French & Edward C. Norton & Hai Fang & Johanna Catherine Maclean, 2010. "Alcohol consumption and body weight," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 19(7), pages 814-832.

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