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Maternal work and children's diet, activity, and obesity

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  • Datar, Ashlesha
  • Nicosia, Nancy
  • Shier, Victoria

Abstract

Mothers' work hours are likely to affect their time allocation towards activities related to children's diet, activity and well-being. For example, mothers who work more may be more reliant on processed foods, foods prepared away from home and school meal programs for their children's meals. A greater number of work hours may also lead to more unsupervised time for children that may, in turn, allow for an increase in unhealthy behaviors among their children such as snacking and sedentary activities such as TV watching. Using data on a national cohort of children, we examine the relationship between mothers' average weekly work hours during their children's school years on children's dietary and activity behaviors, BMI and obesity in 5th and 8th grade. Our results are consistent with findings from the literature that maternal work hours are positively associated with children's BMI and obesity especially among children with higher socioeconomic status. Unlike previous papers, our detailed data on children's behaviors allow us to speak directly to affected behaviors that may contribute to the increased BMI. We show that children whose mothers work more consume more unhealthy foods (e.g. soda, fast food) and less healthy foods (e.g. fruits, vegetables, milk) and watch more television. Although they report being slightly more physically active, likely due to organized physical activities, the BMI and obesity results suggest that the deterioration in diet and increase in sedentary behaviors dominate.

Suggested Citation

  • Datar, Ashlesha & Nicosia, Nancy & Shier, Victoria, 2014. "Maternal work and children's diet, activity, and obesity," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 107(C), pages 196-204.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:107:y:2014:i:c:p:196-204
    DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2013.12.022
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Lisa Oberlander & Anne‐Célia Disdier & Fabrice Etilé, 2017. "Globalisation and national trends in nutrition and health: A grouped fixed‐effects approach to intercountry heterogeneity," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 26(9), pages 1146-1161, September.
    2. Meyer, Sophie-Charlotte, 2016. "Maternal employment and childhood overweight in Germany," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 23(C), pages 84-102.
    3. Datar, Ashlesha, 2017. "The more the heavier? Family size and childhood obesity in the U.S," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 180(C), pages 143-151.
    4. Milovanska-Farrington, Stefani, 2020. "Parents labor supply and childhood obesity: Evidence from Scotland," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 38(C).
    5. Jo, Young, 2017. "The Differences in Characteristics Among Households With and Without Obese Children: Findings From USDA’s FoodAPS," Economic Information Bulletin 263089, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
    6. Ahmed Shoukry Rashad & Mesbah Fathy Sharaf, 2019. "Does maternal employment affect child nutrition status? New evidence from Egypt," Oxford Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 47(1), pages 48-62, January.
    7. Sophie-Charlotte Meyer, 2015. "Maternal Employment and Childhood Overweight in Germany," Schumpeter Discussion Papers SDP15005, Universitätsbibliothek Wuppertal, University Library.
    8. Young Jo & Qing Wang, 2017. "The impact of maternal employment on children's adiposity: Evidence from China's labor policy reform," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 26(12), pages 236-255, December.
    9. McDonnell, Thérèse & Doyle, Orla, 2019. "Maternal employment and childcare during infancy and childhood overweight," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 243(C).

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Maternal work hours; Childhood obesity; BMI; Diet; Physical activity; Sedentary behavior;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply

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