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Morbid obesity and the transition from welfare to work

Author

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  • John Cawley

    (Cornell University)

  • Sheldon Danziger

    (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor)

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 that former welfare recipients who are both White and morbidly obese have been less successful in transitioning from welfare to work. These women are less likely to work at any survey wave, spend a greater percentage of months between waves receiving cash welfare, and have lower monthly earnings at each wave. The magnitude of the difference in labor market outcomes between the morbidly obese and those who are less heavy is in some cases similar in magnitude to the differences in these labor market outcomes between high school dropouts and graduates. In contrast, we find no such labor market differences associated with morbid obesity for African-American respondents. This paper documents the relationship between weight and labor market outcomes for the first time among the welfare population. In addition, it investigates whether the correlation for White females is due to unobserved heterogeneity. We find that after controlling for individual fixed effects, the point estimate of the correlation of morbid obesity and each of the labor market outcomes falls considerably and is no longer statistically significant. These results are consistent with unobserved heterogeneity causing the correlation between morbid obesity and labor market outcomes. Findings are similar after controlling for the respondent's mental and physical health. © 2005 by the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management

Suggested Citation

  • John Cawley & Sheldon Danziger, 2005. "Morbid obesity and the transition from welfare to work," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 24(4), pages 727-743.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:jpamgt:v:24:y:2005:i:4:p:727-743
    DOI: 10.1002/pam.20135
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Bound, John & Brown, Charles & Mathiowetz, Nancy, 2001. "Measurement error in survey data," Handbook of Econometrics,in: J.J. Heckman & E.E. Leamer (ed.), Handbook of Econometrics, edition 1, volume 5, chapter 59, pages 3705-3843 Elsevier.
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    Cited by:

    1. Caliendo, Marco & Lee, Wang-Sheng, 2013. "Fat chance! Obesity and the transition from unemployment to employment," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 11(2), pages 121-133.
    2. Courtemanche, Charles & Pinkston, Joshua C. & Stewart, Jay, 2015. "Adjusting body mass for measurement error with invalid validation data," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 19(C), pages 275-293.
    3. Johansson, Edvard & Böckerman, Petri & Kiiskinen, Urpo & Heliövaara, Markku, 2007. "The Effect of Obesity on Wages and Employment: The Difference Between Having a High BMI and Being Fat," Working Papers 528, Hanken School of Economics.
    4. Robert Kaestner & Elizabeth Tarlov, 2006. "Changes in the welfare caseload and the health of low-educated mothers," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 25(3), pages 623-643.
    5. Cawley, John & Han, Euna & Norton, Edward C., 2009. "Obesity and labor market outcomes among legal immigrants to the United States from developing countries," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 7(2), pages 153-164, July.
    6. Brewis, Alexandra A., 2014. "Stigma and the perpetuation of obesity," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 118(C), pages 152-158.
    7. 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.
    8. Price, Gregory N., 2009. "Obesity and crime: Is there a relationship?," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 103(3), pages 149-152, June.
    9. Burkhauser, Richard V. & Cawley, John, 2008. "Beyond BMI: The value of more accurate measures of fatness and obesity in social science research," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 519-529, March.
    10. Johansson, Edvard & Böckerman, Petri & Kiiskinen, Urpo & Heliövaara, Markku, 2009. "Obesity and labour market success in Finland: The difference between having a high BMI and being fat," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 7(1), pages 36-45, March.
    11. Lindeboom, Maarten & Lundborg, Petter & van der Klaauw, Bas, 2009. "Obesity and Labor Market Outcomes: Evidence from the British NCDS," IZA Discussion Papers 4099, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    12. Pablo Brañas-Garza & Antonios Proestakis, 2010. "Self-discrimination: A field experiment on obesity," ThE Papers 10/18, Department of Economic Theory and Economic History of the University of Granada..
    13. 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.
    14. Averett, Susan L. & Argys, Laura M. & Kohn, Jennifer L., 2012. "Immigration, Obesity and Labor Market Outcomes in the UK," IZA Discussion Papers 6454, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    15. Petter Lundborg & Paul Nystedt & Dan-Olof Rooth, 2014. "Body Size, Skills, and Income: Evidence From 150,000 Teenage Siblings," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 51(5), pages 1573-1596, October.
    16. Chu, Filmer & Ohinmaa, Arto, 2016. "The obesity penalty in the labor market using longitudinal Canadian data," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 23(C), pages 10-17.
    17. Lindeboom, Maarten & Lundborg, Petter & van der Klaauw, Bas, 2010. "Assessing the impact of obesity on labor market outcomes," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 8(3), pages 309-319, December.
    18. Howard Bodenhorn & Gregory Price, 2009. "Crime and Body Weight in the Nineteenth Century: Was there a Relationship between Brawn, Employment Opportunities and Crime?," NBER Working Papers 15099, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    19. Hübler, Olaf, 2009. "The nonlinear link between height and wages in Germany, 1985-2004," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 7(2), pages 191-199, July.

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