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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.

Suggested Citation

  • 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. Meyer, Sophie-Charlotte, 2016. "Maternal employment and childhood overweight in Germany," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 23(C), pages 84-102.
    2. 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.
    3. Sophie-Charlotte Meyer, 2015. "Maternal Employment and Childhood Overweight in Germany," Schumpeter Discussion Papers SDP15005, Universitätsbibliothek Wuppertal, University Library.
    4. Wencke Gwozdz, 2016. "Is maternal employment related to childhood obesity?," IZA World of Labor, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA), pages 267-267, June.
    5. 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.
    6. 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.

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