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Parental employment and children's body weight: Mothers, others, and mechanisms

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  • Ziol-Guest, Kathleen M.
  • Dunifon, Rachel E.
  • Kalil, Ariel

Abstract

A robust body of literature spanning several countries indicates a positive association between maternal employment and child body mass index (BMI). Fewer studies have examined the role of paternal employment. More importantly, little empirical work examines the mechanisms that might explain the relationships between parental employment and children's BMI. Our paper tests the relationship between the cumulative experience of maternal and spouse employment over a child's lifetime and that child's BMI, overweight, and obesity at age 13 or 14. We further examine several mechanisms that may explain these associations. We use data from the U.S. National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY79) merged mother–child file on cohorts of children who were born during a period of dramatic increase in both childhood obesity and maternal employment. We find that the number of hours that highly-educated mothers work over her child's lifetime is positively and statistically significantly associated with her child's BMI and risk of overweight at ages 13 or 14. The work hours of mothers' spouses and partners, on the other hand, are not significantly associated with these outcomes. Results suggest that, for children of highly-educated mothers, the association between maternal work hours and child BMI is partially mediated by television viewing time.

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  • Ziol-Guest, Kathleen M. & Dunifon, Rachel E. & Kalil, Ariel, 2013. "Parental employment and children's body weight: Mothers, others, and mechanisms," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 95(C), pages 52-59.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:95:y:2013:i:c:p:52-59
    DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2012.09.004
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Jonathan Briody, 2020. "Parental Unemployment During the Great Recession and Childhood Adiposity," Working Papers 202002, Geary Institute, University College Dublin.
    2. Meyer, Sophie-Charlotte, 2016. "Maternal employment and childhood overweight in Germany," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 23(C), pages 84-102.
    3. Courtemanche, Charles & Pinkston, Joshua C. & Stewart, Jay, 2021. "Time spent exercising and obesity: An application of Lewbel’s instrumental variables method," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 41(C).
    4. 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.
    5. Wencke Gwozdz, 2016. "Is maternal employment related to childhood obesity?," IZA World of Labor, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA), pages 267-267, June.
    6. Milovanska-Farrington, Stefani, 2020. "Parents labor supply and childhood obesity: Evidence from Scotland," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 38(C).
    7. Wen You & George C. Davis, 2019. "Estimating dual headed time in food production with implications for SNAP benefit adequacy," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 17(1), pages 249-266, March.
    8. 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.
    9. Peng Nie & Alfonso Sousa-Poza, 2014. "Maternal employment and childhood obesity in China: evidence from the China Health and Nutrition Survey," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 46(20), pages 2418-2428, July.
    10. Li, Jianghong & Akaliyski, Plamen & Schäfer, Jakob & Kendall, Garth & Oddy, Wendy H. & Stanley, Fiona & Strazdins, Lyndall, 2017. "Non-linear relationship between maternal work hours and child body weight: Evidence from the Western Australian Pregnancy Cohort (Raine) Study," EconStor Open Access Articles and Book Chapters, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, pages 52-60.
    11. Li, Jianghong & Kaiser, Till & Pollmann-Schult, Matthias & Strazdins, Lyndall, 2019. "Long work hours of mothers and fathers are linked to increased risk for overweight and obesity among preschool children: longitudinal evidence from Germany," EconStor Open Access Articles and Book Chapters, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, pages 723-729.
    12. Jonathan Briody, 2020. "Parental Unemployment During the Great Recession and Childhood Adiposity," Working Papers 202011, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
    13. Young Jo, 2018. "Does the earned income tax credit increase children's weight? The impact of policy‐driven income on childhood obesity," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 27(7), pages 1089-1102, July.
    14. Sophie-Charlotte Meyer, 2015. "Maternal Employment and Childhood Overweight in Germany," Schumpeter Discussion Papers SDP15005, Universitätsbibliothek Wuppertal, University Library.
    15. McDonnell, Thérèse & Doyle, Orla, 2019. "Maternal employment and childcare during infancy and childhood overweight," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 243(C).
    16. Briody, Jonathan, 2021. "Parental unemployment during the Great Recession and childhood adiposity," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 275(C).

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