The Connection between Maternal Employment and Childhood Obesity: Inspecting the Mechanism

Angela R. Fertig, University of Georgia
Gerhard Glomm, Indiana University
Rusty Tchernis, Indiana University

We use time diaries and interview responses from the Child Development Supplement of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics to study the connection between maternal employment and childhood obesity. Our empirical strategy involves estimating the effect of children’s activities and meal routines on children’s body mass index (BMI), estimating the effect of maternal employment on these activities and routines and then combining these two estimates. We find that the effect of activities on BMI and the effect of maternal employment on activities vary greatly by the mother’s educational status. In particular, among highly educated mother families, mother’s employment significantly increases time spent watching TV, which in turn, significantly increases a child’s BMI. However, for both groups higher levels of employment reduce the number of meals consumed per day by children, which increases their BMI.

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Presented in Session 88: Socioeconomic Determinants of Obesity