The Impact of Late-Career Job Loss and Genotype on Body Mass Index
This study examines whether the effect of job loss on body mass index (BMI) at older ages is moderated by genotype using twenty years of socio-demographic and genome-wide data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS). To avoid any potential confounding we interact layoffs due to a plant or business closure—a plausibly exogenous environmental exposure—with a polygenic risk score for BMI in a regression-adjusted semiparametric differences-in-differences matching framework that compares the BMI of those before and after an involuntary job loss with a control group that has not been laid off. Results indicate genetically-at-risk workers who lost their job before they were eligible for Social Security benefits, or before age 62, were more likely to gain weight. Further analysis reveals heterogeneous treatment effects by demographic, health, and socioeconomic characteristics. In particular, we find high risk individuals who gained weight after a job loss were more likely to be male, in worse health, single, and at the bottom half of the wealth distribution. Across the board, effects are concentrated among high-risk individuals who were not overweight prior to job loss, indicating unemployment at older ages may trigger weight gain in otherwise healthy or normal weight populations.
This study was funded in part by the Russell Sage Foundation (grant number 83-15-29) and by an NIA training grant to the Population Studies Center at the University of Michigan (T32 AG000221). The Health and Retirement Study (HRS; accession number 0925-0670) is sponsored by the National Institute on Aging (grant numbers NIA U01AG009740, RC2AG036495, and RC4AG039029) and is conducted by the University of Michigan. Additional funding support for genotyping and analysis were provided by NIH/NICHD R01 HD060726. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.