The impact of maternal employment on child overweight and obesity
Smith, Jennifer J.
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Child obesity rates have increased drastically over the last several decades. Although this trend is of great concern, little research has been done to determine what factors may be influencing this increase. One of the potential explanations is the increased labor force participation rates of mothers. Because mothers are still considered the primary caregivers for children, the increased labor force participation rates have reduced the amount of time the mother has to spend in traditional child-rearing activities. This may cause overweight and obesity rates to increase in her children because she is not as available to monitor the food and exercise choices. The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (ECLS-K) dataset was used to examine the impact of maternal employment on the overweight and obesity rates of children. The data contain information for the same children during their kindergarten, third grade, and fifth grade school years. Examination of the headcount ratios, a weight gap index, and a squared weight gap index indicate significant obesity rates for each of the years, as well as significant increases across years. Results of panel probit models indicate that maternal employment increases child obesity rates for males and the middle income quartile if the mothers work part-time. A selection model was then used to examine the seventy of obesity. These results indicate maternal employment does not have a significant impact on the probability that a child is overweight or obese.