Working Paper

The impact of obesity on human capital accumulation: exploring the driving factors


This study examines the impact of childhood obesity on the academic performance and human capital accumulation of high school students using data from Spain. To address potential endogeneity issues, we exploit the exogenous variation in obesity within peer groups. Specifically, we use the prevalence of obesity by gender in students’ classes as an instrumentalvariable for individual obesity. The results indicate that obesity has a negative impact on academic achievement, particularly on general scores for girls, cognitive abilities as measured by CRT scores, financial abilities, and English grades for both boys and girls. In addition, we found a negative impact of obesity on girls’ mathematics scores, while boys experienced a positive impact. We identify several key drivers of these effects, including teacher bias, psychological well-being, time preferences, and expectations related to labor market discrimination. Our analysis sheds light on the multiple influences of childhood obesity on academic outcomes and highlights the need for targeted interventions.

Keywords: Academic performance, Childhood obesity, Cognitive abilities, Human capital accumulation, peer effects