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Obesity as a Barrier to the Transition from Welfare to Work

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  • John Cawley
  • Sheldon Danziger

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • John Cawley & Sheldon Danziger, 2004. "Obesity as a Barrier to the Transition from Welfare to Work," NBER Working Papers 10508, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10508
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Susan Averett & Sanders Korenman, 1996. "The Economic Reality of the Beauty Myth," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 31(2), pages 304-330.
    2. John Cawley, 2004. "The Impact of Obesity on Wages," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(2).
    3. 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.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Hübler, Olaf, 2006. "The Nonlinear Link between Height and Wages: An Empirical Investigation," IZA Discussion Papers 2394, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    2. Michael T. French & Edward C. Norton & Hai Fang & Johanna Catherine Maclean, 2010. "Alcohol consumption and body weight," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 19(7), pages 814-832.
    3. Rajeev Goel, 2006. "Obesity: An economic and financial perspective," Journal of Economics and Finance, Springer;Academy of Economics and Finance, vol. 30(3), pages 317-324, September.
    4. Kristin F. Butcher & Kyung-Hong Park, 2008. "Obesity, disability, and the labor force," Economic Perspectives, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, issue Q I, pages 2-16.
    5. Brunello, Giorgio & D'Hombres, Beatrice, 2007. "Does body weight affect wages?: Evidence from Europe," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 5(1), pages 1-19, March.
    6. Lopez-Pablos, Rodrigo A., 2007. "Health Econometric: Uncovering the Anthropometric Behavior on Women's Labor Market," MPRA Paper 5961, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 26 Nov 2007.
    7. McDonald, James Ted & Kennedy, Steven, 2005. "Is migration to Canada associated with unhealthy weight gain? Overweight and obesity among Canada's immigrants," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 61(12), pages 2469-2481, December.
    8. Lene Kromann, 2009. "Does Employee Body Weight Affect Employers' Behavior?," Economics Working Papers 2009-04, Department of Economics and Business Economics, Aarhus University.
    9. Lopez-Pablos, Rodrigo A., 2008. "Notas sobre Descomposiciones Microeconométricas: Un Análisis Antropométrico
      [Notes on Microeconometric Decompositions: An Anthropometric Analysis]
      ," MPRA Paper 8222, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I3 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty
    • J0 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General

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