Article

Demography

, Volume 51, Issue 5, pp 1573-1596

First online:

Body Size, Skills, and Income: Evidence From 150,000 Teenage Siblings

  • Petter LundborgAffiliated withCentre for Economic Demography, and HEP, Lund UniversityDepartment of Economics, Lund University
  • , Paul NystedtAffiliated withJönköping International Business SchoolJönköping Academy for Improvement of Health and WelfareCentre for Economic Demography, and HEP, Lund University Email author 
  • , Dan-Olof RoothAffiliated withCentre for Economic Demography, and HEP, Lund UniversityCentre for Labour Market and Discrimination Studies, Linneaus University

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Abstract

We provide new evidence on the long-run labor market penalty of teenage overweight and obesity using unique and large-scale data on 150,000 male siblings from the Swedish military enlistment. Our empirical analysis provides four important results. First, we provide the first evidence of a large adult male labor market penalty for being overweight or obese as a teenager. Second, we replicate this result using data from the United States and the United Kingdom. Third, we note a strikingly strong within-family relationship between body size and cognitive skills/noncognitive skills. Fourth, a large part of the estimated body-size penalty reflects lower skill acquisition among overweight and obese teenagers. Taken together, these results reinforce the importance of policy combating early-life obesity in order to reduce healthcare expenditures as well as poverty and inequalities later in life.

Keywords

Obesity Overweight Discrimination Earnings Skills