IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

No Country for Fat Men? Obesity, Earnings, Skills, and Health among 450,000 Swedish Men

  • Lundborg, Petter


    (Lund University)

  • Nystedt, Paul


    (Linköping University)

  • Rooth, Dan-Olof


    (Linnaeus University)

The negative association between obesity and labor market outcomes has been widely documented, yet little is known about the mechanisms through which the association arises. Using rich and unique data on 450,000 Swedish men enlisting for the military, we find that the crude obesity penalty in earnings, which amounts to about 18 percent, is linked to supply-side characteristics that are associated with both earnings and obesity. In particular, we show that the penalty reflects negative associations between obesity, on the one hand, and cognitive skills, non-cognitive skills, and physical fitness, on the other. Our results suggest that employers use obesity as a marker for skill limitations in order to statistically discriminate.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 4775.

in new window

Length: 41 pages
Date of creation: Feb 2010
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as 'Body Size, Skills, and Income: Evidence From 150,000 Teenage Siblings' in: Demography, 2014, 51, 1573–1596
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp4775
Contact details of provider: Postal: IZA, P.O. Box 7240, D-53072 Bonn, Germany
Phone: +49 228 3894 223
Fax: +49 228 3894 180
Web page:

Order Information: Postal: IZA, Margard Ody, P.O. Box 7240, D-53072 Bonn, Germany

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. James J. Heckman, 2008. "Schools, Skills, And Synapses," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 46(3), pages 289-324, 07.
  2. John Cawley & C. Katharina Spiess, 2008. "Obesity and Skill Attainment in Early Childhood," NBER Working Papers 13997, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. James J. Heckman & Jora Stixrud & Sergio Urzua, 2006. "The Effects of Cognitive and Noncognitive Abilities on Labor Market Outcomes and Social Behavior," NBER Working Papers 12006, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Lex Borghans & Angela Lee Duckworth & James J. Heckman & Bas ter Weel, 2008. "The Economics and Psychology of Personality Traits," Working Papers 200827, Geary Institute, University College Dublin.
  5. Susan Averett & Sanders Korenman, 1993. "The Economic Reality of the Beauty Myth," NBER Working Papers 4521, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Euna Han & Edward C. Norton & Sally C. Stearns, 2009. "Weight and wages: fat versus lean paychecks," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 18(5), pages 535-548.
  7. Nicola Persico & Andrew Postlewaite & Dan Silverman, 2004. "The Effect of Adolescent Experience on Labor Market Outcomes: The Case of Height," NBER Working Papers 10522, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Neal, Derek A & Johnson, William R, 1996. "The Role of Premarket Factors in Black-White Wage Differences," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(5), pages 869-95, October.
  9. Giorgio Brunello & Beatrice d'Hombres, 2006. "Does Body Weight affect Wages? Evidence from Europe," "Marco Fanno" Working Papers 0027, Dipartimento di Scienze Economiche "Marco Fanno".
  10. Darius Lakdawalla & Tomas Philipson & Jay Bhattacharya, 2005. "Welfare-Enhancing Technological Change and the Growth of Obesity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(2), pages 253-257, May.
  11. Thomas, Duncan & Strauss, John, 1997. "Health and wages: Evidence on men and women in urban Brazil," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 77(1), pages 159-185, March.
  12. Giorgio Brunello & Pierre-Carl Michaud & Anna Sanz-de-Galdeano, 2008. "The Rise in Obesity Across the Atlantic: An Economic Perspective," Working Papers 586, RAND Corporation Publications Department.
  13. Anne Case & Christina Paxson, 2006. "Stature and status: Height, ability, and labor market outcomes," Working Papers 27, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Health and Wellbeing..
  14. Lundborg, Petter & Nystedt, Paul & Rooth, Dan-Olof, 2009. "The Height Premium in Earnings: The Role of Physical Capacity and Cognitive and Non-Cognitive Skills," IZA Discussion Papers 4266, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  15. John Cawley, 2004. "The Impact of Obesity on Wages," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(2).
  16. Lechner, Michael, 2009. "Long-run labour market and health effects of individual sports activities," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(4), pages 839-854, July.
  17. Cawley, John & Heckman, James & Vytlacil, Edward, 2001. "Three observations on wages and measured cognitive ability," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 8(4), pages 419-442, September.
  18. Currie, Janet & Madrian, Brigitte C., 1999. "Health, health insurance and the labor market," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 50, pages 3309-3416 Elsevier.
  19. Yona Rubinstein & James J. Heckman, 2001. "The Importance of Noncognitive Skills: Lessons from the GED Testing Program," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(2), pages 145-149, May.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp4775. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Mark Fallak)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.