Academic journal article Monthly Labor Review

Obesity and Labor Market Outcomes

Academic journal article Monthly Labor Review

Obesity and Labor Market Outcomes

Article excerpt

Since the mid-1970s, unemployment rates among US. workers have been slowly trending downward, and the overall health of the population has been improving, as measured by declining mortality rates. Over the same period, the labor force participation rate for men aged 25 to 54--the proportion of that population either working or actively seeking work--declined slightly.

There also has been a well-documented rise in obesity and related health problems over the last 30 years, as well as an expansion of the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program. In a recent article in the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago's Economic Perspectives (first quarter, 2008), economists Kristin F Butcher and Kyung H. Park examine the relationship between obesity, disability, and labor market outcomes. In particular, they ask, What role has increased obesity played in the decline in labor force participation among men aged 25 to 54 over the last 30 years?

Butcher and Park analyze the issue from both a "supply-side" and a "demand-side" perspective. On the supply side, obesity might affect a person's ability to work--due to poor health, perhaps, or low self-esteem. …

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