Maternal Work and Children's Diet, Activity, and Obesity

39 Pages Posted: 15 Nov 2013

See all articles by Ashlesha Datar

Ashlesha Datar

Center for Economic and Social Research (CESR)

Nancy Nicosia

RAND Corporation

Victoria Shier

RAND Corporation

Date Written: November 5, 2013

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.

Keywords: Maternal work hours, childhood obesity, BMI, diet, physical activity, sedentary behavior

JEL Classification: J22

Suggested Citation

Datar, Ashlesha and Nicosia, Nancy and Shier, Victoria, Maternal Work and Children's Diet, Activity, and Obesity (November 5, 2013). CESR-Schaeffer Working Paper No. 2013-012, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2354648 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2354648

Ashlesha Datar (Contact Author)

Center for Economic and Social Research (CESR) ( email )

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Los Angeles, CA 90089-3332
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Nancy Nicosia

RAND Corporation ( email )

1776 Main Street
Santa Monica, CA 90407-2138
United States
310-393-0411 (Phone)

Victoria Shier

RAND Corporation ( email )

1776 Main Street
P.O. Box 2138
Santa Monica, CA 90407-2138
United States

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