No Country for Fat Men? Obesity, Earnings, Skills, and Health Among 450,000 Swedish Men

41 Pages Posted: 22 Feb 2010

See all articles by Petter Lundborg

Petter Lundborg

Lund University School of Economics and Management; Tinbergen Institute; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Paul Nystedt

Linkoping University

Dan-Olof Rooth

University of Kalmar; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Abstract

The negative association between obesity and labor market outcomes has been widely documented, yet little is known about the mechanisms through which the association arises. Using rich and unique data on 450,000 Swedish men enlisting for the military, we find that the crude obesity penalty in earnings, which amounts to about 18 percent, is linked to supply-side characteristics that are associated with both earnings and obesity. In particular, we show that the penalty reflects negative associations between obesity, on the one hand, and cognitive skills, non-cognitive skills, and physical fitness, on the other. Our results suggest that employers use obesity as a marker for skill limitations in order to statistically discriminate.

Keywords: obesity, overweight, earnings, cognitive ability, non-cognitive ability, health, physical fitness

JEL Classification: I10, J10, J70

Suggested Citation

Lundborg, Petter and Nystedt, Bjorn Paul Fredrik and Rooth, Dan-Olof, No Country for Fat Men? Obesity, Earnings, Skills, and Health Among 450,000 Swedish Men. IZA Discussion Paper No. 4775. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1556563

Petter Lundborg (Contact Author)

Lund University School of Economics and Management ( email )

P.O Box 7080
Lund
Sweden

Tinbergen Institute ( email )

Burg. Oudlaan 50
Rotterdam, 3062 PA
Netherlands

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Bjorn Paul Fredrik Nystedt

Linkoping University

Linkoping, 581 83
Sweden

Dan-Olof Rooth

University of Kalmar ( email )

Sweden

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Schaumburg-Lippe-Str. 7 / 9
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

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