Direct and Indirect Effects of Teenage Body Weight on Adult Wages
NBER Working Paper No. 15027
Previous estimates on the association between body weight and wages in the literature have been contingent on education and occupation. This paper examines the direct effect of BMI on wages and the indirect effects operating through education and occupation choice, particularly for late-teen BMI and adult wages. Using the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 data, we show that education is the main pathway for the indirect BMI wage penalty. The total BMI wage penalty is underestimated by 18% for women without including those indirect effects. Whereas for men there is no statistically significant direct BMI wage penalty, we do observe a small indirect wage penalty through education.