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Maternal Employment and Childhood Obesity: A Search for Mechanisms in Time Use Data.

November 2007

John Cawley, Feng Liu.

Download 'working_paper07-29.pdf'.


Recent research has found that maternal employment is associated with an increased risk of childhood obesity. This paper explores mechanisms for that correlation. We estimate models of instrumental variables using a unique dataset, the American Time Use Survey, that measure the effect of maternal employment on the mother’s allocation of time to activities that may be related to child diet and physical activity. We find that employed women spend significantly less time cooking, eating with their children, and playing with their children, and are more likely to purchase prepared foods. We find suggestive evidence that these decreases in time are only partly offset by husbands and partners. These findings offer plausible mechanisms for the association of maternal employment with childhood obesity.

Child Well-being and Child Development, Employment, Unemployment, and the Labor Market, Health, Health Insurance, and Health Care