Princeton University Library Catalog

New Rules, New Decisions: The Effects of Maternal Employment on Childhood Body Weight, Nutrition, and Activity Outcomes for At-Welfare-Risk Families

Malik, Levi [Browse]
Senior thesis
Reichman, Nancy [Browse]
Princeton University. Department of Economics [Browse]
Class year:
107 pages
Summary note:
This paper examines the relationship between maternal employment and childhood body weight, nutrition, and activity outcomes for at-welfare risk families, specifically those led by less-educated, single mothers. This subject group is of note as recent United States welfare reform enforced stricter policies that drastically increased the employment of these welfare-reliant women. While past research indicates that maternal employment is associated with childhood overweight and obesity for families of higher-socioeconomic status, no conclusive pattern has been found for less well-to-do families. I use an economic model of household production to explore the possible effects of maternal employment on these outcomes, testing the relationship through descriptive statistics and regression analysis (OLS, probit, and child fixed effects models) with a sample of 1,381 five-year olds from The Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study. In line with my expectations, I find that children of full-time working mothers have significantly poorer body weight outcomes; children of part-time working mothers also have less desirable body weight outcomes, but the effects are smaller in magnitude and not significant. Similarly, I find that children of both full- and part-time employed mothers have generally poorer outcomes for the mechanisms I examine, childhood nutrition and activities. There are, however, outcomes that deviate from my expectations, most notably maternal employment’s effect on childhood television viewing. Finally, my secondary analysis on state-by-state welfare strictness shows that children’s body weight outcomes are more harmed by maternal employment in states with stronger work incentives.