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Evidence of Unequal Treatment in Hiring against Obese Applicants: A Field Experiment


  • Rooth, Dan-Olof

    () (Stockholm University)


This study presents evidence of recruitment discrimination against obese individuals in Sweden by sending fictitious applications to real job openings. Otherwise identical applications were randomly assigned a portrait photograph of an obese or a normalweight job applicant. Applications with an obese applicant receive twenty percent fewer callbacks for an interview. It is also found that discrimination is the same against men and women and that it varies across occupations in a systematic way in that firms hiring employees in occupations with more customer contact discriminate more. The tentative conclusion is that customer discrimination and/or statistical discrimination based on the correlation between job performance and being obese is the explanation. Also, opposite to what is expected, register data show that the share of obese employees is higher in occupations were discrimination is found to be higher.

Suggested Citation

  • Rooth, Dan-Olof, 2007. "Evidence of Unequal Treatment in Hiring against Obese Applicants: A Field Experiment," IZA Discussion Papers 2775, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp2775

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. d'Hombres, Beatrice & Brunello, Giorgio, 2005. "Does Obesity Hurt Your Wages More in Dublin than in Madrid? Evidence from ECHP," IZA Discussion Papers 1704, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    2. Susan Averett & Sanders Korenman, 1996. "The Economic Reality of the Beauty Myth," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 31(2), pages 304-330.
    3. Carlsson, Magnus & Rooth, Dan-Olof, 2007. "Evidence of ethnic discrimination in the Swedish labor market using experimental data," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(4), pages 716-729, August.
    4. Hamermesh, Daniel S & Biddle, Jeff E, 1994. "Beauty and the Labor Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(5), pages 1174-1194, December.
    5. 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. S. Baert & B. Cockx & N. Gheyle & C. Vandamme, 2013. "Do Employers Discriminate Less if Vacancies Are Difficult to Fill? Evidence From a Field Experiment," Working Papers of Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Ghent University, Belgium 13/830, Ghent University, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration.
    2. Jens, Agerström & Carlsson, Rickard & Rooth, Dan-Olof, 2007. "Ethnicity and obesity: evidence of implicit work performance stereotypes in Sweden," Working Paper Series 2007:20, IFAU - Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy.
    3. Maciej Bukowski & Piotr Lewandowski & Irena Kotowska & Anna Baranowska & Izabela Grabowska & Karol Pogorzelski & Tymon Sloczynski & Pawel Strzelecki & Anna Matysiak & Horacy Debowski & Maciej Lis, 2010. "Employment in Poland 2008. Work over the life course," Books and Reports published by IBS, Instytut Badan Strukturalnych, number zwp2008 edited by Maciej Bukowski, September.
    4. Greve, Jane, 2008. "Obesity and labor market outcomes in Denmark," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 6(3), pages 350-362, December.

    More about this item


    obesity; correspondence testing; discrimination;

    JEL classification:

    • J64 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Unemployment: Models, Duration, Incidence, and Job Search
    • J71 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination - - - Hiring and Firing

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