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Genetic Information, Obesity, and Labor Market Outcomes

  • Edward C Norton
  • Euna Han

Economists have argued that obesity may lead to worse labor market outcomes, especially for women. Empirical methods to test this hypothesis have not thus far adequately controlled for the endogeneity of obesity. We use variation in genotype to predict variation in phenotype (obesity). Genetic information from specific genes linked to obesity in the biomedical literature provide strong exogenous variation in the body mass index, and thus can be used as instrumental variables. These genes predict swings in weight of between 5 and 20 pounds for persons between five and six feet tall. We use additional genetic information to control for omitted variables correlated with both obesity and labor market outcomes. We analyzed data from the third wave of the Add Health data set, when respondents are in their mid-twenties. Results from our preferred models show no effect of obesity on the probability of employment or on wages, for either men or women. This paper shows the potential of using genetic information in social sciences.

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Paper provided by HEDG, c/o Department of Economics, University of York in its series Health, Econometrics and Data Group (HEDG) Working Papers with number 07/15.

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Date of creation: Jul 2007
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Handle: RePEc:yor:hectdg:07/15
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  13. Chou, Shin-Yi & Grossman, Michael & Saffer, Henry, 2004. "An economic analysis of adult obesity: results from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(3), pages 565-587, May.
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  17. John Cawley, 2004. "The Impact of Obesity on Wages," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(2).
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