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Is Excess Weight Penalised or Rewarded in Middle‐Income Countries’ Labour Markets? Comparative Evidence from China, India and Mexico

Abstract : This comparative study examines the relationship between excess weight and hourly wages in the unprecedented context of middle‐income countries. We compare three countries that are at different stages of the nutrition transition: India (at an early stage), China (at an intermediate stage) and Mexico (at an advanced stage). To do so, we use three distinct household surveys and combine different estimation procedures. Our results emphasise a wage penalty of underweight together with a wage reward of excess weight in India, pointing towards the persistence of pro‐fat social norms in a country where hunger is still highly prevalent. Conversely, we observe significant overweight and obesity wage penalties in China, especially in non‐manual jobs, probably due to a large diffusion of anti‐fat social norms in a country where hunger is residual and normal weight predominant. In Mexico, we find an overweight wage premium in manual jobs and no effect in non‐manual jobs. We speculate that the large‐scale diffusion of excess weight may lead to its greater social acceptance (i.e. ‘new’ pro‐fat norms). Finally, we explore the potential transmission channels through which bodyweight may affect wages. We provide evidence of potential anti‐fat discrimination in China and pro‐fat‐discrimination in India and Mexico. Our results have important implications in terms of public health policy.
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Submitted on : Wednesday, August 3, 2022 - 10:43:58 AM
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Matthieu Clément, Pierre Levasseur, Suneha Seetahul. Is Excess Weight Penalised or Rewarded in Middle‐Income Countries’ Labour Markets? Comparative Evidence from China, India and Mexico. Kyklos, Wiley, 2020, 73 (2), pp.161-195. ⟨10.1111/kykl.12220⟩. ⟨hal-02909246⟩

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