Longer Hours and Larger Waistlines? The Relationship Between Work Hours and Obesity

35 Pages Posted: 25 Mar 2007 Last revised: 20 Jan 2014

See all articles by Charles Courtemanche

Charles Courtemanche

University of North Carolina (UNC) at Greensboro - Department of Economics

Date Written: March 12, 2009

Abstract

Additional work hours may lead to weight gain by decreasing exercise, causing substitution from meals prepared at home to fast food and pre-prepared processed food, or reducing sleep. Substitution toward unhealthy convenience foods could also influence the weight of one's spouse and children, while longer work hours for adults may further impact child weight by reducing parental supervision. I examine the effects of adult work hours on the body mass index (BMI) and obesity status of adults as well as the overweight status of children. Longer hours increase one's own BMI and probability of being obese, but have a smaller and statistically insignificant effect on these outcomes for one's spouse. Mothers', but not mother's spouse's, work hours affect children's probability of being overweight. My estimates imply that changes in labor force participation account for only 1.4% of the rise in adult obesity in recent decades, but a more substantial 10.4% of the growth in childhood overweight.

Keywords: obesity, work hours, employment, weight, body weight, overweight, childhood obesity

JEL Classification: I10

Suggested Citation

Courtemanche, Charles, Longer Hours and Larger Waistlines? The Relationship Between Work Hours and Obesity (March 12, 2009). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=975099 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.975099

Charles Courtemanche (Contact Author)

University of North Carolina (UNC) at Greensboro - Department of Economics ( email )

Greensboro, NC 27402-6165
United States

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