Wages, BMI, and Age: A Generalized Additive Model Using the Oracle Estimator

34 Pages Posted: 20 Dec 2011 Last revised: 14 Nov 2012

See all articles by Christian Gregory

Christian Gregory

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) - Economic Research Service (ERS)

Date Written: December 1, 2011

Abstract

Previous research generally finds that body mass does not affect wages for men. But this literature has for the most part focused on young workers and has not examined whether the effect of obesity might change as people age. In this essay, I examine the effect of body mass on men's wages across the age distribution, modeling both BMI and wages nonparametrically by use of an oracle estimator. Two important results emerge from this study. First, BMI does affect wages for men, although it appears to affect white men more significantly than black or Hispanic men. Second, and most importantly, the effect of BMI isn't really changing as men age: differences in the effect of BMI across the age distribution that we observe in linear specifications are due to the change in the distribution of BMI, rather than a change in the effect of BMI itself. This has important implications for our understanding of the causal mechanisms that drive the observed effect of BMI on wages. In particular, our results tend to support the idea that appearance, consumer preferences, or other non-cognitive factors are behind this effect, while the health effects of BMI seem less important.

Keywords: Wages, BMI, Nonparametric Methods, Oracle Estimator, Obesity

JEL Classification: C14, J30, I10

Suggested Citation

Gregory, Christian, Wages, BMI, and Age: A Generalized Additive Model Using the Oracle Estimator (December 1, 2011). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1975044 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1975044

Christian Gregory (Contact Author)

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) - Economic Research Service (ERS) ( email )

1800 M Street NW
Washington, DC 20036-5831
United States

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