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HERC Health Economics Seminar

Untangling the Direct and Indirect Effects of Body Mass Dynamics on Earnings


by Donna Gilleskie,
Seminar date: 10/20/2010

Description: In this study we aim to assess the effect of body mass on earnings. It has been shown that the body mass of white females is negatively correlated with wages (Cawley, 2004). We argue that this observed correlation may capture the influence of body mass on life-cycle decisions such as educational attainment, work experience, marital status, and fertility, which, in turn, determine wages. Similarly, these behaviors may impact body mass over the life cycle. Admittedly, body mass may still have an observed direct impact on wages if weight affects productivity on the job (which, in most data sets, is immeasurable) or if discrimination (also immeasurable) exists. To disentangle these direct and indirect effects we propose to model wages of individuals while jointly explaining accumulation of education and work experience, the decisions to work, to marry, and to have children, and the evolution of body mass over time.

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