Although the rise in obesity and overweight is related to time constraints influencing health investments (e.g., exercise, shopping and cooking time, etc.), there is limited causal evidence to substantiate such claims. This paper estimates the causal effect of a change in working times on overweight and obesity drawing from evidence from a national policy (the Aubrey reform) implemented in the beginning of the past decade in France that reduced the work week from 39 to 35 hours, or 184 hours per year. This policy came into effect in 2001 but one region, Alsace-Mosselle, blunted its impact by counting two existing public holidays towards the 184-hour reduction. In this region, hours of work per year only fell by 168. However, in 2003, Alsace-Mosselle was forced to fully comply with national policy. We use longitudinal data from GAZEL (INSERM) 1997-2006 that contains detailed information about health indicators, including measures of height and weight. Drawing from a difference-in-differences strategy, we estimate the effect of a differential reduction in working times on body weight. Our results show evidence of 8 percential points increase in the probability of overweight among blue collar workers when the exposure to the reform, and a non-significant overweight reduction when the reform ‘turned off’. In contrast, we find no effect among white collar workers. The effects are robust to different specifications and placebo tests.
obesity overweight working times difference-in-differences blue collar white collar Body Mass Index