Date of Award


Document Type

Union College Only

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Younghwan Song




wages, bmi, obesity, wage, study


During the past twenty years, the prevalence of obesity in the United States’ population has been increasing, and projections indicate this trend is accelerating. This study provides insight into whether the negative effect of obesity on wages is related to obesity’s growing prevalence in the US. Using the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) from two waves (1986 and 2007), this paper utilizes OLS regression analysis to examine the relationship between body mass index (BMI) and hourly wages to determine the wage penalty of obesity for individuals over time. Previous studies find correlations between BMI and lost wages. This study seeks to improve this by tracking the trend of the obesity wage penalty over this 21-year period. Additionally, this study controls for the effects of sex, education, age, race, occupation-based interpersonal skills, full/part-time status, tenure, smoking, marital status, presence of a child, metropolitan status and health on lost wages. The regressions show statistically significant wage penalties for obese and very obese females and underweight males, but a significant wage premium for overweight males. From 1986 to 2007, the wage penalty has increased for women between the ages of 25 and 45. Consequently, it is logical for women to be concerned about the growth of this trend and thus their BMI affecting wages. However, the average BMI of the US population has been increasing, so overweight is becoming the new normal weight, mitigating some of the effects of BMI on hourly wages. Regardless, government agencies can focus on these demographics for obesity prevention and anti-discriminatory policies.