Journal of Public Health

, Volume 27, Issue 1, pp 89–101 | Cite as

Implementing a regression discontinuity design to explore the heterogeneous effects of obesity on labour income: the case of Mexico

  • Pierre LevasseurEmail author
Original Article



This study aims to explore within-country heterogeneity in the causal relationship between body mass and labour income. We focus on Mexico, which is an emerging country where overweight is predominant and hunger has become marginal.

Subjects and methods

Based on the working-age population from the Mexican Family Life Survey (2002–2012), we use a regression discontinuity design to test for significant discontinuities along the body mass-income relationship. More specifically, we investigate the presence of income gaps along the body mass distribution.


Our findings suggest that the overweight status is not particularly penalised in the Mexican labour market. By contrast, the obesity status decreases hourly wages by about 15%. Regarding heterogeneity, obesity-related wage penalties are stronger for female than male employees and higher in service employments, urban areas and the latest survey.


We conclude on a co-occurrence of pro- and anti-fat social norms in emerging countries. Our results might be generalised to other middle-income economies with similar nutritional patterns where hunger is marginal and overweight predominant.


Mexico Emerging countries Labour income Obesity Regression discontinuity design 

JEL classification

O1 J3 I1 


Compliance with ethical standards

The author declares that he has no financial and non-financial conflict of interest. No ethical approval is required to use the Mexican Family Life Survey. This database is anonymous and does not contain personal information. Please see the website for more information about the data: The author is responsible for all remaining errors.

Supplementary material

10389_2018_925_MOESM1_ESM.docx (77 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 77 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.GREThA, Université de BordeauxPessac CedexFrance
  2. 2.Departamento de Economía AplicadaUniversidad de GranadaGranadaSpain

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