Obesity and labour market success in Finland: The difference between having a high BMI and being fat

Edvard Johansson, Petri Böckerman, Urpo Kiiskinen, Markku Heliövaara

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

101 Citations (Scopus)


This paper examines the relationship between obesity and labour market success in Finland, using various indicators of individual body composition along with body mass index (BMI). Weight, height, fat mass and waist circumference are measured by health professionals. We find that only waist circumference has a negative association with wages for women, whereas no obesity measure is significant in the linear wage models for men. However, all measures of obesity are negatively associated with women's employment probability and fat mass is negatively associated with men's employment probability. We also find that the use of categories for waist circumference and fat mass has a substantial influence on the results. For example, the category for high fat mass is associated with roughly 5.5% lower wages for men. All in all, the results indicate that in the absence of measures of body composition, there is a risk that labour market penalties associated with obesity are measured with bias.
Original languageEnglish
Peer-reviewed scientific journalEconomics & Human Biology
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)36-45
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 03.2009
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article - refereed


  • 511 Economics
  • Obesity
  • Body composition
  • Fatness
  • Wages
  • Employment


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