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The Gender-specific Role of Body Weight for Health, Earnings and Life Satisfaction in Piecewise and Simultaneous Equations Models

  • Olaf Hübler EMAIL logo


Based on the German Socio-Economic Panel, the correlation between the body mass index, health, earnings and life satisfaction is analysed by gender. The previous literature has found no consistent results. This might have several reasons. The purpose of this paper is to analyse the gender-specific role of weight in single equation, piecewise and simultaneous equations models. We ask whether this distinction is important for the degree of association between health, earnings, satisfaction and body weight. In our context, piecewise modelling means a separate inspection of weight coefficients for under- and overweight people, allowing the detection of non-linear influences. As a benchmark, we begin our estimations under the assumption that the association between health, earnings, satisfaction, and weight is the same for under- and overweight people, and that there are no jointly dependent influences between our three outcome variables. The basic results are: health worsens, income declines and satisfaction is poorer with higher body mass index. If the association with weight is separately determined for over- and underweight people, the estimates show striking differences between overweight men and women. Underweight women earn more and overweight less than others. For normal-weight men the income is on average higher than for over- and underweight men but this difference is insignificant. When matching and instrumental variables procedures are applied, the health outcome for overweight people matches that of independent and unmatched estimates. Stronger positive effects on health are found for underweight women. No clear-cut advantages in income of overweight women can be found. Underweight women and especially underweight men tend to be less happy. For overweight men this influence is ambiguous but more speaks in favour of a lesser level of satisfaction. Overweight women seem to be happier.

JEL Classification: I15; I31; J16; J31


For helpful comments I thank the associate editor, Regina Riphahn, an unknown referee and Robert A. Hart.


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Table 6:

Logit estimates of a dummy that a women has a BMI larger than the upper BMI quartile of all women in the entire sample on personal characteristics.

Coef.Std. Err.zP>|z|[95 % Conf. Interval]
Identical twin0.43090.20842.070.0390.02240.8394
Father is a Muslim−0.38850.1661−2.340.019−0.7143−0.0628
Parents have taken care for children0.01470.01640.900.369−0.01740.0469
Conflicts with father0.02270.01132.010.0440.00050.0449
Mother’s schooling−0.01840.0105−1.750.081−0.03910.0022
Number of siblings−0.05690.0074−7.670.000−0.0714−0.0423
Played music as an adolescent0.13870.03084.500.0000.07820.1992
Done sport as an adolescent0.04740.02911.630.104−0.00970.1046
LR chi2(8)100.62
Prob > chi20.0000
Table 7:

Estimates of health for women with overweight influence and of satisfaction for men with underweight influence.

MethodOLSOrdered probitOLSOrdered probit
Eastern Germany−0.132***−0.184***
Treiman score_father−0.004***−0.005***
Year dummies D2004-2016YesYesYesYes
cut1- cut4NoYesNoYes
  1. Notes: * p < 0.10, ** p < 0.05, *** p < 0.01 based on clustered standard errors at the individual level; further explanations see Table 3.

Received: 2019-01-07
Revised: 2019-09-16
Accepted: 2019-09-18
Published Online: 2019-11-09
Published in Print: 2020-10-25

© 2019 Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag GmbH, Published by De Gruyter Oldenbourg, Berlin/Boston

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