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Obesity as a Barrier to the Transition from Welfare to Work

  • John Cawley
  • Sheldon Danziger

This paper utilizes a rich longitudinal data set -- the Women's Employment Study (WES) to investigate whether obesity, which is common among women of low socioeconomic status, is a barrier to employment and earnings for current and former welfare recipients. We find evidence that, among current and former welfare recipients, high body weight is a greater barrier to labor market success for white women than for African-American women. Among white women, we consistently find a negative correlation between weight and labor market outcomes such as employment, hours worked, and earnings. Among African American women, weight is not correlated with employment, hours worked, or earnings, but it is correlated with the percentage of months spent on welfare between interviews. We provide suggestive evidence that these differences between white and African-American women in the relationship between body weight and labor market outcomes are partly due to differential weight-based discrimination in employment.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w10508.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 10508.

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Date of creation: May 2004
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Publication status: published as Cawley, John, and Sheldon Danziger. "Morbid Obesity and the Transition From Welfare to Work." Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Fall 2005, 24(4): 727-743.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10508
Note: HE LS
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  1. Susan Averett & Sanders Korenman, 1993. "The Economic Reality of the Beauty Myth," NBER Working Papers 4521, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Rebecca M. Blank, 2002. "Evaluating Welfare Reform in the United States," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(4), pages 1105-1166, December.
  3. John Cawley, 2004. "The Impact of Obesity on Wages," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(2).
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