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Keywords:

  • obesity;
  • wages;
  • discrimination;
  • body mass index

Abstract

We use National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY) data to examine the effects of obesity on wages by gender. Sample means indicate that both men and women experience a persistent obesity wage penalty over the first two decades of their careers. We then control for a standard set of socioeconomic and familial variables but find that standard covariates do not explain why obese workers experience persistent wage penalties. This suggests that other variables – including job discrimination, health-related factors and/or obese workers' behavior patterns – may be the channels through which obesity adversely affects wages. The study closes with a discussion of the public policy implications suggested by these findings. Copyright © 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.