Thursday, July 21, 2011

Obesity on the German labor market

Being obese makes you a social outcast, especially in countries were obese people are relatively rare. This can have consequences on the labor market, as there is plenty of evidence that handsomeness matters, for example. So are obese people discriminated against on the labor market?

Marco Caliendo and Wang-Sheng Lee look at newly employed people in Germany and find that there is not much evidence of discrimination there. Only obese (but not overweight) women may be suffering in the land of beer and wurst. Of course, one may question the validity of a study that must be relying on very few observations for a subgroup of the sample. Yet, surprisingly, half of the men and 37% of the women are considered overweight or obese, proportions I would never have imagined from walking around German towns. And with sample ages averaging in the thirties, they are relatively young too. As the survey sample is based on people who have been unemployed, I wonder whether the discrimination is rather in unemployment rather than employment.

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