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Obesity and the Labor Market: A Fresh Look at the Weight Penalty

  • Caliendo, Marco

    ()

    (University of Potsdam)

  • Gehrsitz, Markus

    ()

    (City University of New York)

This paper applies semiparametric regression models to shed light on the relationship between body weight and labor market outcomes in Germany. We find conclusive evidence that these relationships are poorly described by linear or quadratic OLS specifications, which have been the main approaches in previous studies. Women's wages and employment probabilities do not follow a linear relationship and are highest at a body weight far below the clinical threshold of obesity. This indicates that looks, rather than health, is the driving force behind the adverse labor market outcomes to which overweight women are subject. Further support is lent to this notion by the fact that wage penalties for overweight and obese women are only observable in white-collar occupations. On the other hand, bigger appears to be better in the case of men, for whom employment prospects increase with weight, albeit with diminishing returns. However, underweight men in blue-collar jobs earn lower wages because they lack the muscular strength required in such occupations.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 7947.

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Length: 34 pages
Date of creation: Feb 2014
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp7947
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  1. Caliendo, Marco & Lee, Wang-Sheng, 2013. "Fat chance! Obesity and the transition from unemployment to employment," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 11(2), pages 121-133.
  2. Johansson, Edvard & Böckerman, Petri & Kiiskinen, Urpo & Heliövaara, Markku, 2009. "Obesity and labour market success in Finland: The difference between having a high BMI and being fat," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 7(1), pages 36-45, March.
  3. John Cawley & Johanna Catherine Maclean, 2010. "Unfit for Service: The Implications of Rising Obesity for U.S. Military Recruitment," NBER Working Papers 16408, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Edward C. Norton & Euna Han, 2008. "Genetic information, obesity, and labor market outcomes," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 17(9), pages 1089-1104.
  5. Strulik, Holger, 2014. "A mass phenomenon: The social evolution of obesity," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 33(C), pages 113-125.
  6. Charles L. Baum & William F. Ford, 2004. "The wage effects of obesity: a longitudinal study," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 13(9), pages 885-899.
  7. John Cawley & Richard V. Burkhauser, 2006. "Beyond BMI: The Value of More Accurate Measures of Fatness and Obesity in Social Science Research," NBER Working Papers 12291, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. John Cawley & Sheldon Danziger, 2005. "Morbid obesity and the transition from welfare to work," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 24(4), pages 727-743.
  9. Paraponaris, Alain & Saliba, Berengere & Ventelou, Bruno, 2005. "Obesity, weight status and employability: Empirical evidence from a French national survey," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 3(2), pages 241-258, July.
  10. HILDEBRAND Vincent & VAN KERM Philippe, 2010. "Body size and wages in Europe: A semi-parametric analysis," LISER Working Paper Series 2010-09, LISER.
  11. John Cawley & Markus M. Grabka & Dean R. Lillard, 2005. "A Comparison of the Relationship between Obesity and Earnings in the U.S. and Germany," Schmollers Jahrbuch : Journal of Applied Social Science Studies / Zeitschrift für Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaften, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin, vol. 125(1), pages 119-129.
  12. Bhattacharya, Jay & Bundorf, M. Kate, 2009. "The incidence of the healthcare costs of obesity," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(3), pages 649-658, May.
  13. Davide Dragone & Luca Savorelli, 2010. "Thinness and Obesity: A Model of Food Consumption, Health Concerns, and Social Pressure," STICERD - Economic Organisation and Public Policy Discussion Papers Series 017, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE.
  14. Cawley, John & Price, Joshua A., 2013. "A case study of a workplace wellness program that offers financial incentives for weight loss," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(5), pages 794-803.
  15. Roy Wada & Erdal Tekin, 2007. "Body Composition and Wages," NBER Working Papers 13595, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Charles L. Baum II & Christopher J. Ruhm, 2007. "Age, Socioeconomic Status and Obesity Growth," NBER Working Papers 13289, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Cawley, John & Meyerhoefer, Chad, 2012. "The medical care costs of obesity: An instrumental variables approach," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 219-230.
  18. 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.
  19. John Cawley & Euna Han & Edward C. Norton, 2011. "The validity of genes related to neurotransmitters as instrumental variables," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 20(8), pages 884-888, 08.
  20. Greve, Jane, 2008. "Obesity and labor market outcomes in Denmark," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 6(3), pages 350-362, December.
  21. Morris, Stephen, 2006. "Body mass index and occupational attainment," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(2), pages 347-364, March.
  22. Lindeboom, Maarten & Lundborg, Petter & van der Klaauw, Bas, 2010. "Assessing the impact of obesity on labor market outcomes," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 8(3), pages 309-319, December.
  23. John Cawley, 2004. "The Impact of Obesity on Wages," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(2).
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