May 2007

No. 2775: Evidence of Unequal Treatment in Hiring against Obese Applicants: A Field Experiment

revised version published as "Obesity, Attractiveness, and Differential Treatment in Hiring: A Field Experiment" in: Journal of Human Resources, 2009, 44(3), 710-735

This study presents evidence of recruitment discrimination against obese individuals in Sweden by sending fictitious applications to real job openings. Otherwise identical applications were randomly assigned a portrait photograph of an obese or a normalweight job applicant. Applications with an obese applicant receive twenty percent fewer callbacks for an interview. It is also found that discrimination is the same against men and women and that it varies across occupations in a systematic way in that firms hiring employees in occupations with more customer contact discriminate more. The tentative conclusion is that customer discrimination and/or statistical discrimination based on the correlation between job performance and being obese is the explanation. Also, opposite to what is expected, register data show that the share of obese employees is higher in occupations were discrimination is found to be higher.