Maternal Employment, Family Structure, and Preschoolers’ Overweight Problems

Hu, Mei-Chen
Working paper no. 2008-06


The rapid increase in childhood obesity from 1980 to 2000 aroused strong concerns among health policy makers. Childhood obesity increases the likelihood of being overweight during adulthood, and obesity is strongly related to type 2 diabetes and cardinal diseases. What is behind the increase in childhood obesity? Are changes in socioeconomic factors causing the overweight problem? In this study, I explicitly examined the relationship between maternal work and preschoolers’ physical development. I estimate the net effect of maternal work by using sibling models in order to control for unobserved maternal characteristics. The indicator I use to measure physical development is the Body Mass Index (BMI), a popular scale used by almost all pediatricians in this country. Before I advance my theoretical hypotheses as to how maternal work may cause problems for preschoolers’ physical development, a brief summary of previous studies, chief contentions and problems, will provide us with some background.