Maternal Employment and Childhood Obesity



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Childhood overweight may be one of the most significant health issues facing American children today. In the 1963 to 1970 period, 4 percent of children between the ages of 6 and 11 were defined as overweight; that level had more than tripled by 1999, reaching 13 percent. The rise in women working outside the home coincides with the rise in childhood weight problems. From 1970 to 1999, the fraction of married women with children under 6 who participate in the labor force doubled, rising from 30 to 62 percent, while those with children ages 6 to 17 rose dramatically from 49 to 77 percent. However, time series evidence is not sufficient to imply that these trends are related. This study explores whether the rise observed in both maternal employment and childhood overweight represents a causal relationship between these two phenomena.


Published: Journal of Health Economics. Vol. 22, No. 3 (May 2003). pp. 477-504.


Anderson, Patricia M., Kristin F. Butcher, and Phillip B. Levine. "Maternal Employment and Childhood Obesity" in Tomas Philipson, Carolanne Dai, Lorens Helmchen, and Jayachandran Variyam, "The Economics of Obesity: A Report on the Workshop Held at USDA's Economic Research Service," Electronic Publications from the Food Assistance & Nutrition Research Program No. (EFAN-04004) 45 pp, May 2004.