Fatter Attraction: Marital Status and the Relationship between BMI and Labor Supply
We empirically analyze the labor supply choices of married men and women according to their body size (BMI), using data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics on anthropometric characteristics of both spouses, and unmarried men and women as comparison group. Heavier husbands are found to work significantly more hours and earn more labor income, controlling for both spouses’ demographic and socioeconomic characteristics. Conversely, no such effect is found for either unmarried individuals or for married women. We suggest a marriage market mechanism through which male BMI and earnings are positively related. Heavier married men compensate for their negative physical trait by providing their wives with more disposable income, working more hours and earning more. Heavier women may not able to compensate their spouse through labor supply, as female physical traits are more relevant in the marriage market than the corresponding male traits.