The Effect of Obesity on Wages and Employment: The Difference Between Having a High BMI and Being Fat
In this paper, we re-examine the relationship between overweight and labour market success, using indicators of individual body composition along with BMI (Body Mass Index). We use the dataset from Finland in which weight, height, fat mass and waist circumference are not self-reported, but obtained as part of the overall health examination. We find that waist circumference, but not weight or fat mass, has a negative effect on wages for women, whereas all measures of obesity have negative effects on women’s employment probabilities. For men, the only obesity measure that is significant for men’s employment probabilities is fat mass. One interpretation of our findings is that the negative wage effects of overweight on wages run through the discrimination channel, but that the negative effects of overweight on employment have more to do with ill health. All in all, measures of body composition provide a more refined picture about the effects of obesity on wages and employment.
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