Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-768dbb666b-v9bzm Total loading time: 0.368 Render date: 2023-02-04T15:04:15.386Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "useRatesEcommerce": false } hasContentIssue true


Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 July 2016

Euna Han*
College of Pharmacy and Yonsei Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Yonsei University, South Korea
Tae Hyun Kim
Graduate School of Public Health and Institute of Health Services Research, Yonsei University, South Korea
1Corresponding author. Email:


This study assesses differential labour performance by body mass index (BMI), focusing on heterogeneity across three distinct employment statuses: unemployed, self-employed and salaried. Data were drawn from the Korean Labor and Income Panel Study. The final sample included 15,180 person-year observations (9645 men and 5535 women) between 20 and 65 years of age. The findings show that (i) overweight/obese women are less likely to have salaried jobs than underweight/normal weight women, whereas overweight/obese men are more likely to be employed in both the salaried and self-employed sectors than underweight/normal men, (ii) overweight/obese women have lower wages only in permanent salaried jobs than underweight/normal weight women, whereas overweight/obese men earn higher wages only in salaried temporary jobs than underweight/normal weight women, (iii) overweight/obese women earn lower wages only in service, sales, semi-professional and blue-collar jobs in the salaried sector than underweight/normal weight women, whereas overweight/obese men have lower wages only in sales jobs in the self-employed sector than underweight/normal weight women. The statistically significant BMI penalty in labour market outcomes, which occurs only in the salaried sector for women, implies that there is an employers’ distaste for workers with a high BMI status and that it is a plausible mechanism for job market penalty related to BMI status. Thus, heterogeneous job characteristics across and within salaried versus self-employed sectors need to be accounted for when assessing the impact of BMI status on labour market outcomes.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press, 2016 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Alba-Ramirez, A. (1994) Self-employment in the midst of unemployment: the case of Spain and the United States. Applied Economics 26, 189204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Andreyeva, T., Puhl, R. & Brownell, K. (2008) Changes in perceived weight discrimination among Americans: 1995–1996 through 2004–2006. Obesity 16, 11291134.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Baum, C. L. & Ford, W. F. (2004) The wage effects of obesity: a longitudinal study. Health Economics 13(9), 885899.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Blanchflower, D. G. (2000) Self-employment in OECD countries. Labour Economics 7(5), 471505.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Blanchflower, D. G. & Oswald, A. J. (1998) What makes an entrepreneur? Journal of Labor Economics 16(1), 2660.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Brown, C. (1980) Equalizing differences in the labor market. Quarterly Journal of Economics 94(1), 113134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Butcher, K. F. & Park, K. H. (2008) Obesity, disability, and the labor force. Economic Perspective 1A, 116.Google Scholar
Cachelin, F. M., Rebeck, R. M., Chung, G. H. & Pelayo, E. (2002) Does ethnicity influence body-size preference? A comparison of body image and body size. Obesity Research 10(3), 158166.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Caliendo, M. & Lee, W. S. (2013) Fat chance! Obesity and the transition from unemployment to employment. Economics & Human Biology 11(2), 121133.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Carrasco, R. (1999) Transitions to and from self-employment in Spain: an empirical analysis. Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics 61, 315341.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cawley, J. (2000) An instrumental variables approach to measuring the effect of body weight on employment disability. Health Services Research 35(5), 11591179.Google ScholarPubMed
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Korea (2012) National Statistics for Health. URL: Scholar
Chang, C. T., Chang, K. H. & Cheah, W. L. (2009) Adults’ perceptions of being overweight or obese: a focus group study. Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition 18(2), 257264.Google ScholarPubMed
Conley, D. & Glauber, R. (2005) Gender, body mass and economic status. National Bureau of Economics Research Working Paper No. 11343.Google Scholar
Evans, D. S. & Leighton, L. S. (1989) Some empirical aspects of entrepreneurship. American Economic Review 79, 519535.Google Scholar
Freeman, R. B. (2007) Labor market institutions around the world. NBER Working Paper No. 13242.Google Scholar
Garcia, J. & Quintana-Domeque, C. (2007) Obseity, employment and wages in Europe. Advances in Health Economics and Health Services Research 17, 187217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Giel, K. E., Alizadeh, M., Schaffeler, N., Zahn, C., Wessel, D., Hesse, F. W. et al. (2012) Stigmatization of obese individuals by human resource professionals: an experimental study. BMC Public Health 12(1), 525.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hammond, R. A. & Levine, R. (2010) The economic impact of obesity in the United States. Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity: Targets and Therapy 3, 285295.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Han, E., Norton, E. C. & Powell, L. M. (2011) Direct and indirect effects of body weight on adult wages. Economics & Human Biology 9(4), 381392.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Jencks, C., Perman, L. & Rainwater, L. (1988) What is good job? A new measure of labor-market success. American Journal of Sociology 93(6), 13221357.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Joh, H. K., Oh, J., Lee, H. J. & Kawachi, I. (2013) Gender and socioeconomic status in relation to weight perception and weight control behavior in Korean adults. Obesity Factors 6(1), 1727.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Ju, Y. J., Han, K. T., Lee, T. H., Kim, W., Park, J. H. & Park, E.C. (2016) Association between weight control failure and suicidal ideation in overweight and obese adults: a cross-sectional study. BMC Public Health 16(1), 259.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Kim, T. H. & Han, E. (2015) Impact of body mass on job quality. Economics & Human Biology 17, 7585.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kim, T. H., Lee, E. K. & Han, E. (2014) Food away from home and body mass outcomes: taking heterogeneity into account enhances quality of results. Nutrition 30, 10151021.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Kuhn, P. J. & Schuetze, H. J. (2001) Self-employment dynamics and self-employment trends: a study of Canadian men and women, 1982–1998. Canadian Journal of Economics 34, 760784.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kumar, A. (2012) Self-employment, efficiency wage, and public policies. Economic Inquiry 50(4), 10691079.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lewin-Epstein, N. & Yuchtman-Yaar, E. (1991) Health risks of self-employment. Work and Occupations 18(3), 291312.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lucas, R. B. (1978) On the size distribution of business firms. Bell Journal of Economics 9, 508523.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Moog, P. & Backes-Gellner, U. (2006) Social capital and the willingness to become self-employed: is there a difference between women and men? The Institute for Strategy and Business Economics Working Paper. URL:¼893721.Google Scholar
Nisbet, P. (1997) Dualism, flexibility and self-employment in the UK construction industry. Work, Employment & Society 11(3), 459479.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Norton, E. C. & Han, E. (2009) Using genetic information to identify causal effects of obesity. Health Economics 17, 10891104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
OECD (2013) Employment and Labour Markets: Key Tables from OECD. URL: Scholar
OECD (2014) Obesity and the Economics of Prevention: Fit not Fat – Korea Key Facts. URL: Scholar
Pagan, J. A. & Davila, A. (1997) Obesity, occupational attainment, and earnings. Korean Social Science Quarterly 78(3), 756770.Google Scholar
Puhl, R. & Brownell, K. D. (2001) Bias, discrimination, and obesity. Obesity Research 9(12), 788805.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Roehling, M. (1999) Weight-based discrimination in employment: psychological and legal aspects. Personnel Psychology 52, 9691016.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Roehling, M., Roehling, P. & Pichler, S. (2007) The relationship between body weight and perceived weight-related employment discrimination: the role of sex and race. Journal of Vocational Behavior 71, 300318.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rooth, D. (2009) Obesity, attractiveness and differential treatment in hiring: a field experiment. Journal of Human Resources 44, 710735.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Smith, R. S. (1979) Compensating wage differentials and public policy: a review. Industrial and Labor Relations Review 32(3), 339352.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sohn, M. J. (2007) The characteristics of the recent trend of self-employment [in Korean]. SERI Economic Focus 148, 112.Google Scholar
Storey, D. J. (1991) The birth of new firms – does unemployment matter? A review of the evidence. Small Business Economics 3, 167178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Visscher, T. L. S. & Seidell, J. C. (2001) The public health impact of obesity. Annual Review of Public Health 22, 355375.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
WHO Regional Office (2000) The Asia-Pacific Perspective: Redefining Obesity and its Treatment. WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific, the International Association for the Study of Obesity (IASO) and the International Obesity Task Force (IOTF).Google Scholar
WHO (2014) Overweight and Obesity Factsheet No. 311. URL: Google Scholar
Yun, J. W. (2011) Unbalanced development: the origin of Korea’s self-employment problem from a comparative perspective. Journal of Development Studies 47(5), 786803.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cited by

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *