IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Direct and Indirect Effects of Teenage Body Weight on Adult Wages


  • Euna Han
  • Edward C. Norton
  • Lisa M. Powell


Previous estimates on the association between body weight and wages in the literature have been contingent on education and occupation. This paper examines the direct effect of BMI on wages and the indirect effects operating through education and occupation choice, particularly for late-teen BMI and adult wages. Using the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 data, we show that education is the main pathway for the indirect BMI wage penalty. The total BMI wage penalty is underestimated by 18% for women without including those indirect effects. Whereas for men there is no statistically significant direct BMI wage penalty, we do observe a small indirect wage penalty through education.

Suggested Citation

  • Euna Han & Edward C. Norton & Lisa M. Powell, 2009. "Direct and Indirect Effects of Teenage Body Weight on Adult Wages," NBER Working Papers 15027, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15027
    Note: HE

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Diba, Behzad T. & Grossman, Herschel I., 1988. "Rational inflationary bubbles," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(1), pages 35-46, January.
    2. Barro, Robert J., 1987. "Government spending, interest rates, prices, and budget deficits in the United Kingdom, 1701-1918," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(2), pages 221-247, September.
    3. Jay Bhattacharya & M. Kate Bundorf, 2005. "The Incidence of the Healthcare Costs of Obesity," NBER Working Papers 11303, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Darius Lakdawalla & Tomas Philipson, 2007. "Labor Supply and Weight," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 42(1).
    5. 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.
    6. Hamermesh, Daniel S & Biddle, Jeff E, 1994. "Beauty and the Labor Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(5), pages 1174-1194, December.
    7. Nicola Persico & Andrew Postlewaite & Dan Silverman, 2004. "The Effect of Adolescent Experience on Labor Market Outcomes: The Case of Height," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(5), pages 1019-1053, October.
    8. John Cawley, 2004. "The Impact of Obesity on Wages," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(2).
    9. Morris, Stephen, 2007. "The impact of obesity on employment," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(3), pages 413-433, June.
    10. 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.
    11. Joseph J. Sabia, 2007. "The Effect of Body Weight on Adolescent Academic Performance," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 73(4), pages 871-900, April.
    12. 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.
    13. Puhani, Patrick A, 2000. " The Heckman Correction for Sample Selection and Its Critique," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 14(1), pages 53-68, February.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


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

    Cited by:

    1. Margareta Dackehag & Ulf-G. Gerdtham & Martin Nordin, 2015. "Productivity or discrimination? An economic analysis of excess-weight penalty in the Swedish labor market," The European Journal of Health Economics, Springer;Deutsche Gesellschaft für Gesundheitsökonomie (DGGÖ), vol. 16(6), pages 589-601, July.
    2. Vasilios Kosteas, 2012. "The Effect of Exercise on Earnings: Evidence from the NLSY," Journal of Labor Research, Springer, vol. 33(2), pages 225-250, June.
    3. LIU Xing & SIERMINSKA Eva, 2014. "Evaluating the effect of beauty on labor market outcomes: A review of the literature," LISER Working Paper Series 2014-11, LISER.
    4. Benjamin Volland, 2013. "Conscientious consumers? Preferences, personality and expenditure in the UK," Papers on Economics and Evolution 2013-05, Philipps University Marburg, Department of Geography.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15027. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.