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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.

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  • 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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    1. Hübler, Olaf, 2019. "The Role of Body Weight for Health, Earnings and Life Satisfaction," IZA Discussion Papers 12078, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    2. Benson, Rebecca & von Hippel, Paul T. & Lynch, Jamie L., 2018. "Does more education cause lower BMI, or do lower-BMI individuals become more educated? Evidence from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 211(C), pages 370-377.
    3. Kröger, Hannes & Leopold, Liliya, 2020. "Education Differences in Women’s Body Weight Trajectories: The Role of Motherhood," EconStor Open Access Articles and Book Chapters, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics.
    4. Kanazawa, Satoshi & Hu, Shihao & Larere, Adrien, 2018. "Why do very unattractive workers earn so much?," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 29(C), pages 189-197.
    5. Hübler Olaf, 2020. "The Gender-specific Role of Body Weight for Health, Earnings and Life Satisfaction in Piecewise and Simultaneous Equations Models," Journal of Economics and Statistics (Jahrbuecher fuer Nationaloekonomie und Statistik), De Gruyter, vol. 240(5), pages 653-676, October.
    6. 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.
    7. Grossbard, Shoshana & Mukhopadhyay, Sankar, 2017. "Body-Weight and Women's Hours of Work: More Evidence That Marriage Markets Matter," IZA Discussion Papers 10775, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    8. Paolo Nicola Barbieri, 2018. "BMI and Employment: Is There an Overweight Premium?," Italian Economic Journal: A Continuation of Rivista Italiana degli Economisti and Giornale degli Economisti, Springer;Società Italiana degli Economisti (Italian Economic Association), vol. 4(3), pages 523-548, November.
    9. Brown, Christian & Routon, P. Wesley, 2018. "On the distributional and evolutionary nature of the obesity wage penalty," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 28(C), pages 160-172.
    10. MORIKAWA Masayuki, 2018. "Smoking, Obesity, and Labor Market Outcomes: Evidence from Japan," Discussion papers 18023, Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI).
    11. Hannes Kröger & Liliya Leopold, 2020. "Education differences in women’s body weight trajectories: The role of motherhood," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 15(9), pages 1-23, September.
    12. 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.
    13. Nuñez, Roy, 2020. "Obesity and labor market in Peru," MPRA Paper 105621, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    14. 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.
    15. Conor Lennon, 2018. "Who pays for the medical costs of obesity? New evidence from the employer mandate," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 27(12), pages 2016-2029, December.
    16. Dilmaghani, Maryam, 2020. "Beauty perks: Physical appearance, earnings, and fringe benefits," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 38(C).
    17. Bruno, Giovanni S. F. & Caroleo, Floro Ernesto & Dessy, Orietta, 2015. "Obesity and Economic Performance of Young Workers in Italy," IZA Discussion Papers 9050, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    18. Ronald DeBeaumont & Robert Girtz, 2019. "The Mediation Effect of Self-Esteem on Weight and Earnings," Atlantic Economic Journal, Springer;International Atlantic Economic Society, vol. 47(4), pages 415-427, December.
    19. Campos-Vazquez, Raymundo M. & Gonzalez, Eva, 2020. "Obesity and hiring discrimination," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 37(C).
    20. Raymundo M. Campos-Vazquez & Roy Nuñez, 2019. "Obesity and labor market outcomes in Mexico/Obesidad y el mercado de trabajo en México," Estudios Económicos, El Colegio de México, Centro de Estudios Económicos, vol. 34(2), pages 159-196.
    21. Lee, Wang-Sheng, 2014. "Big and Tall: Is there a Height Premium or Obesity Penalty in the Labor Market?," IZA Discussion Papers 8606, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    22. Giovanni Busetta & Maria Gabriella Campolo & Demetrio Panarello, 2020. "Weight-Based Discrimination in the Italian Labor Market: an Analysis of the Interaction with Gender and Ethnicity," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 18(4), pages 617-637, December.
    23. Han, Seung-Yong & Brewis, Alexandra A. & SturtzSreetharan, Cindi, 2018. "Employment and weight status: The extreme case of body concern in South Korea," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 29(C), pages 115-121.
    24. Lennon, Conor, 2021. "Are the costs of employer-sponsored health insurance passed on to workers at the individual level?," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 41(C).

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Obesity; Wages; Employment; Semiparametric regression; Gender differences;
    All these keywords.

    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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