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Obesity and the labor market: A fresh look at the weight penalty

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  • Caliendo, Marco
  • Gehrsitz, Markus

Abstract

This paper applies semiparametric regression models to shed light on the relationship between body weight and labor market outcomes in Germany. We find conclusive evidence that these relationships are poorly described by linear or quadratic OLS specifications. Women's wages and employment probabilities do not follow a linear relationship and are highest at a body weight far below the clinical threshold of obesity. This indicates that looks, rather than health, is the driving force behind the adverse labor market outcomes to which overweight women are subject. Further support is lent to this notion by the fact that wage penalties for overweight and obese women are only observable in white-collar occupations. On the other hand, bigger appears to be better in the case of men, for whom employment prospects increase with weight, albeit with diminishing returns. However, underweight men in blue-collar jobs earn lower wages because they lack the muscular strength required in such occupations.

Suggested Citation

  • Caliendo, Marco & Gehrsitz, Markus, 2016. "Obesity and the labor market: A fresh look at the weight penalty," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 23(C), pages 209-225.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ehbiol:v:23:y:2016:i:c:p:209-225 DOI: 10.1016/j.ehb.2016.09.004
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    Cited by:

    1. Grossbard, Shoshana & Mukhopadhyay, Sankar, 2017. "Body-Weight and Women's Hours of Work: More Evidence That Marriage Markets Matter," IZA Discussion Papers 10775, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    2. Lee, Wang-Sheng, 2014. "Big and Tall: Is there a Height Premium or Obesity Penalty in the Labor Market?," IZA Discussion Papers 8606, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Bruno, Giovanni S. F. & Caroleo, Floro Ernesto & Dessy, Orietta, 2015. "Obesity and Economic Performance of Young Workers in Italy," IZA Discussion Papers 9050, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. Pagan, Ricardo & Haro, Carmen Ordóñez de & Sánchez, Carlos Rivas, 2016. "Obesity, job satisfaction and disability at older ages in Europe," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 20(C), pages 42-54.
    5. Buttet, Sebastien & Dolar, Veronika, 2015. "Toward a quantitative theory of food consumption choices and body weight," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 17(C), pages 143-156.
    6. Oreffice, Sonia & Quintana-Domeque, Climent, 2016. "Beauty, body size and wages: Evidence from a unique data set," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 22(C), pages 24-34.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Obesity; Wages; Employment; Semiparametric regression; Gender differences;

    JEL classification:

    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • J71 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination - - - Hiring and Firing
    • C14 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods and Methodology: General - - - Semiparametric and Nonparametric Methods: General

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