Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Working Papers,
Lund University, Department of Economics

No 2011:12: Productivity or discrimination? An economic analysis of excess-weight penalty in the Swedish labor market

Margareta Dackehag (), Ulf-G Gerdtham () and Martin Nordin ()
Additional contact information
Margareta Dackehag: Department of Economics, Lund University, Postal: Department of Economics, School of Economics and Management, Lund University, Box 7082, S-220 07 Lund, Sweden
Ulf-G Gerdtham: Department of Economics, Lund University, Postal: Department of Economics, School of Economics and Management, Lund University, Box 7082, S-220 07 Lund, Sweden
Martin Nordin: Department of Economics, Lund University, Postal: Department of Economics, School of Economics and Management, Lund University, Box 7082, S-220 07 Lund, Sweden

Abstract: Using longitudinal data, this paper investigates the penalty for excess weight in the Swedish labor market, distinguishing between the productivity and the discrimination hypotheses. We analyze employment, income, and sickness absence , using the latter as a direct measure of productivity. We find that excess weight women, but not men, experience a significant employment penalty. Both genders experience a significant income penalty for obesity. We conclude that the penalties are associated with lower productivity, primarily in terms of health. We find no evidence of discrimination.

Keywords: Employment; income; sickness absence; obesity; overweight

JEL-codes: I10; I12; J23; J31

26 pages, April 1, 2011

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