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Unfit for Service: The Implications of Rising Obesity for U.S. Military Recruitment

Author

Listed:
  • Cawley, John

    () (Cornell University)

  • Maclean, J. Catherine

    () (Temple University)

Abstract

This paper contributes to the literature on the labor market consequences of unhealthy behaviors and poor health by examining a previously underappreciated consequence of the rise in obesity in the United States: challenges for military recruitment. Specifically, this paper estimates the percent of the U.S. military-age population that meets, and does not meet, current active duty enlistment standards for weight-for-height and percent body fat for the U.S. Army, using data from the series of National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys that spans 1959-2008. We calculate that the percentage of military-age adults ineligible for enlistment because they are overweight and overfat doubled for men and tripled for women during that time. We document disparities across race, education, and age in meeting the standards, and finds that a further rise of just 1% in weight and body fat would further reduce eligibility for military service by over 600,000 men and 1 million women of military age. The paper concludes with a discussion of the implications for military recruitment and military policy.

Suggested Citation

  • Cawley, John & Maclean, J. Catherine, 2011. "Unfit for Service: The Implications of Rising Obesity for U.S. Military Recruitment," IZA Discussion Papers 5822, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp5822
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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. Hu, Yingyao & Sasaki, Yuya, 2015. "Closed-form estimation of nonparametric models with non-classical measurement errors," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 185(2), pages 392-408.
    3. Cawley, John, 2015. "An economy of scales: A selective review of obesity's economic causes, consequences, and solutions," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(C), pages 244-268.
    4. Maclean, Johanna Catherine & Cawley, John, 2014. "The effect of rising obesity on eligibility to serve in the U.S. public health service commissioned corps," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 15(C), pages 213-224.
    5. 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.
    6. Guardado, José R. & Ziebarth, Nicolas R., 2013. "A Model of Worker Investment in Safety and Its Effects on Accidents and Wages," IZA Discussion Papers 7428, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    7. 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.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    military; obesity; labor;

    JEL classification:

    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health
    • H56 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - National Security and War
    • J11 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Demographic Trends, Macroeconomic Effects, and Forecasts
    • J18 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Public Policy
    • J2 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor
    • J45 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Public Sector Labor Markets
    • N32 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-

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