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Fat Chance! Obesity and the Transition from Unemployment to Employment


  • Caliendo, Marco

    () (University of Potsdam)

  • Lee, Wang-Sheng

    () (Deakin University)


This paper focuses on estimating the magnitude of any potential weight discrimination by examining whether obese job applicants in Germany get treated or behave differently from non-obese applicants. Based on two waves of rich survey data from the IZA Evaluation dataset, which includes measures that control for education, demographic characteristics, labor market history, psychological factors and health, we estimate differences in job search behavior and labor market outcomes between obese/overweight and healthy weight individuals. Unlike other observational studies which are generally based on obese and non-obese individuals who might already be at different points in the job ladder (e.g., household surveys), in our data, individuals are newly unemployed and all start from the same point. The only subgroup we find in our data experiencing any possible form of labor market discrimination is obese women. Despite making more job applications and engaging more in job training programs, we find some indications that they experienced worse (or at best similar) employment outcomes than healthy weight women. Obese women who found a job also had significantly lower wages than healthy weight women.

Suggested Citation

  • Caliendo, Marco & Lee, Wang-Sheng, 2011. "Fat Chance! Obesity and the Transition from Unemployment to Employment," IZA Discussion Papers 5795, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp5795

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Blog mentions

    As found by, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Fat Chance! Obesity and the Transition from Unemployment to Employment
      by maximorossi in NEP-LTV blog on 2011-07-06 21:17:52
    2. Obesity on the German labor market
      by Economic Logician in Economic Logic on 2011-07-21 19:55:00


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Berning, Joshua, 2015. "The role of physicians in promoting weight loss," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 17(C), pages 104-115.
    2. Fahr, René, 2006. "The Wage Effects of Social Norms: Evidence of Deviations from Peers’ Body-Mass in Europe," IZA Discussion Papers 2323, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. 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.
    4. Marco Caliendo & Jens Hogenacker & Steffen Künn & Frank Wießner, 2015. "Subsidized start-ups out of unemployment: a comparison to regular business start-ups," Small Business Economics, Springer, vol. 45(1), pages 165-190, June.
    5. Caliendo, Marco & Gielen, Anne C. & Mahlstedt, Robert, 2015. "Home-ownership, unemployed’s job search behavior and post-unemployment outcomes," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 137(C), pages 218-221.
    6. Patrick Arni & Marco Caliendo & Steffen Künn & Klaus Zimmermann, 2014. "The IZA evaluation dataset survey: a scientific use file," IZA Journal of European Labor Studies, Springer;Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit GmbH (IZA), vol. 3(1), pages 1-20, December.
    7. Averett, Susan L. & Smith, Julie K., 2012. "Indebted and Overweight: The Link Between Weight and Household Debt," IZA Discussion Papers 6898, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    8. Averett, Susan L. & Smith, Julie K., 2014. "Financial hardship and obesity," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 15(C), pages 201-212.
    9. Raftopoulou, Athina, 2017. "Geographic determinants of individual obesity risk in Spain: A multilevel approach," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 24(C), pages 185-193.
    10. Wilson, Nicholas & Janicki, Martha, 2016. "A cut above the rest? Private anthropometrics in marriage markets," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 23(C), pages 164-179.
    11. 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.
    12. Gerards, Ruud & Welters, Ricardo, 2016. "Impact of financial pressure on unemployed job search, job find success and job quality," ROA Research Memorandum 008, Maastricht University, Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market (ROA).
    13. Kim, Tae Hyun & Han, Euna, 2015. "Impact of body mass on job quality," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 17(C), pages 75-85.
    14. Larose, Samantha L. & Kpelitse, Koffi A. & Campbell, M. Karen & Zaric, Gregory S. & Sarma, Sisira, 2016. "Does obesity influence labour market outcomes among working-age adults? Evidence from Canadian longitudinal data," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 20(C), pages 26-41.
    15. Myoung-Jae Lee, 2015. "Reference parameters in Blinder-Oaxaca decomposition: Pooled-sample versus intercept-shift approaches," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 13(1), pages 69-82, March.

    More about this item


    discrimination; obesity; labor demand; employment;

    JEL classification:

    • I10 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - General
    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • J23 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Demand
    • J70 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination - - - General

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