Ability to quit smoking is associated with higher wages

Former smokers earn higher wages than smokers and people who have never smoked, according to a new study.

imagesIn a working paper published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, research economist Julie L. Hotchkiss and M. Melinda Pitts studied the relationship between smoking and wages. Using data from the complement of tobacco use in the Current Population Survey U.S. Census Bureau for the period from 1992 to 2011, economists have found that people who quit smoking for at least a year earned higher wages than smokers and people who have never not smoking. The data show that non-smokers, which include the never smokers and former smokers, will bring about 96% of the hourly wages of ex-smokers.

Smokers, on the other hand, it does not get much in the workplace. They earned about 80% of salary non-smokers. Even one cigarette a day is the wage gap between smokers and nonsmokers, economists write. “Smoking destroys the value of your human capital in the labor market,” said Ms. Pitts.

Are tobaccos users earn less because smoking reduces their productivity? Mrs. and Mrs. Pitts Hotckiss found no evidence for this. Two economists have tested the relationship between wages and intensity of smoking and found that the frequency at which people smoke did not significantly affect their earnings. “The idea is that if smoking affects productivity, the heavier smokers will have a much larger gap in wages. We found no support for this hypothesis,” said Ms. Pitts.

They found that differences in the characteristics of smokers and non-smokers, such as level of education, and unmeasured factors, such as the employer’s tolerance for smoking, mostly driving in wages. They noted that the level of education was a major contributing variable. Nonsmokers tend to be more educated, less likely to have spouses who smoke and live in states where cigarette prices more than smokers.

The findings suggest that the characteristics of ex-smokers have a highly premium in the labor market than in smokers and people who have never smoked. “It takes a special person to give up the addictive behavior, and there is a greater reward for quitting smoking than do not always start it,” said Ms. Pitts. “I think the qualities of perseverance, patience and everything else that goes along with being able to throw valuable to employers.”

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