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Maternal Employment and Overweight Children: Does Timing Matter?


  • Stephanie von Hinke Kessler Scholder



Recent literature has shown consistent evidence of a positive relationship between maternal employment and children’s excess body weight. These studies have largely focused on the effect of average weekly work hours over the child’s life on its overweight status. The aim of this paper is to explore the importance of the timing of employment. Timing of maternal absences has been shown to matter for child cognitive and behavioral outcomes. This paper explores whether this timing effect also exists with respect to children’s excess body weight. Data on a nationally representative British birth cohort are used to examine this, permitting a detailed exploration of the potential endogeneity of mother’s employment. The results show a significant positive correlation between full-time maternal employment during mid-childhood and the probability of being overweight at age 16. There is no evidence that part-time or full-time employment at earlier or later ages leads to a higher probability of being overweight at age 16. Subgroup analysis suggests this effect is driven by lower socio-economic groups. Various econometric techniques are used to explore whether employed mothers are systematically different from non-employed mothers, but there is no evidence that this unobserved heterogeneity biases the estimates.

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  • Stephanie von Hinke Kessler Scholder, 2007. "Maternal Employment and Overweight Children: Does Timing Matter?," The Centre for Market and Public Organisation 07/180, Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK.
  • Handle: RePEc:bri:cmpowp:07/180

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. Daniel Miller, 2011. "Maternal Work and Child Overweight and Obesity: The Importance of Timing," Journal of Family and Economic Issues, Springer, vol. 32(2), pages 204-218, June.
    3. Costa-Font, J. & Jofre-Bonet, M. & Le Grand, J., 2016. "Vertical Transmission of Overweight: Evidence from English Adoptees," Health, Econometrics and Data Group (HEDG) Working Papers 15/05, HEDG, c/o Department of Economics, University of York.
    4. Price, Joseph & Swigert, Jeffrey, 2012. "Within-family variation in obesity," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 10(4), pages 333-339.
    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. repec:dau:papers:123456789/5065 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Meyer, Sophie-Charlotte, 2016. "Maternal employment and childhood overweight in Germany," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 23(C), pages 84-102.
    8. Thérèse McDonnell & Orla Doyle, 2014. "Maternal Employment, Childcare and Childhood Overweight during Infancy," Working Papers 201416, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
    9. Florence Jusot & Sandy Tubeuf & Alain Trannoy, 2010. "Effort or Circumstances: Does the Correlation Matter for Inequality of Opportunity in Health?," Working Papers DT33, IRDES institut for research and information in health economics, revised Jul 2010.
    10. Gwozdz, Wencke & Sousa-Poza, Alfonso & Reisch, Lucia A. & Ahrens, Wolfgang & Eiben, Gabriele & M. Fernandéz-Alvira, Juan & Hadjigeorgiou, Charalampos & De Henauw, Stefaan & Kovács, Eva & Lauria, Fabio, 2013. "Maternal employment and childhood obesity – A European perspective," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(4), pages 728-742.
    11. Cawley, John & Liu, Feng, 2012. "Maternal employment and childhood obesity: A search for mechanisms in time use data," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 10(4), pages 352-364.
    12. Jens Bonke & Jane Greve, 2012. "Children’s health-related life-styles: how parental child care affects them," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 10(4), pages 557-572, December.
    13. Zafar Nazarov & Michael S. Rendall, 2011. "Differences by Mother's Education in the Effect of Childcare on Child Obesity," Working Papers WR-890, RAND Corporation.
    14. Joan Costa Font & Mireia Jofre-Bonet & Julian Le Grand, 2015. "Vertical Transmission of Overweight: Evidence From English Adoptees," CEP Discussion Papers dp1324, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    15. Costa-Font, Joan & Gil, Joan, 2013. "Intergenerational and socioeconomic gradients of child obesity," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 93(C), pages 29-37.
    16. Greve, Jane, 2011. "New results on the effect of maternal work hours on children's overweight status: Does the quality of child care matter?," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(5), pages 579-590, October.
    17. Lauber, Verena & Thomas, Lampert, 2014. "The Effect of Early Universal Daycare on Child Weight Problems," Annual Conference 2014 (Hamburg): Evidence-based Economic Policy 100399, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    18. Sophie-Charlotte Meyer, 2015. "Maternal Employment and Childhood Overweight in Germany," Schumpeter Discussion Papers SDP15005, Universitätsbibliothek Wuppertal, University Library.
    19. 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.
    20. 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.
    21. repec:dau:papers:123456789/9524 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item


    Childhood obesity; Maternal Employment; Timing of Employment; Overweight;

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply

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