WEIGHT AND WAGES: FAT VERSUS LEAN PAYCHECKS


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Abstract

SUMMARYPast empirical work has shown a negative relationship between the body mass index (BMI) and wages in most cases. We improve on this work by allowing the marginal effect of non-linear BMI groups to vary by gender, age, and type of interpersonal relationships required in each occupation. We use the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 (1982-1998). We find that the often-reported negative relationship between the BMI and wages is larger in occupations requiring interpersonal skills with presumably more social interactions. Also, the wage penalty increases as the respondents get older beyond their mid-twenties. We show that being overweight and obese penalizes the probability of employment across all race-gender subgroups except black women and men. Our results for the obesity-wage association can be explained by either consumers or employers having distaste for obese workers.

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