Maternal Employment and Overweight Children in the United Kingdom

Posted: 11 Jun 2007


This paper attempts to examine whether there is a causal relationship between maternal employment and children's overweight status. This is the first study that explores this relationship for the United Kingdom. The analysis uses two British birth cohorts: the 1958 National Child Development Study and the 1970 British Cohort Study. I look at three aspects in particular. First, I explore whether the timing of mother's employment with respect to the child's age is important. Second, I investigate the importance of the intensity of work. For the latter, I distinguish between mothers working part-time and full-time as opposed to not working. Third, the use of two nationally representative surveys means the results can be compared across cohorts to examine whether there have been any cohort changes over time.

Both birth cohorts show a significant positive correlation between maternal employment at ages 5-7 of the child and the probability that a child is overweight at age 16. Additionally, the analysis shows it is full-time as opposed to part-time employment that increases the child's weight. Subgroup analysis suggests this effect is driven by the lower socio-economic groups. I use several econometric techniques to explore possible bias due to unobserved heterogeneity. The NCDS results are robust to these specifications, suggesting that unobserved heterogeneity does not play a role. The results for the BCS are somewhat more ambiguous and it is not clear whether any unobserved effects bias the estimates.

Keywords: Childhood obesity, Maternal employment

JEL Classification: D13, I12, J22

Suggested Citation

von Hinke Kessler Scholder, Stephanie, Maternal Employment and Overweight Children in the United Kingdom. iHEA 2007 6th World Congress: Explorations in Health Economics Paper, Available at SSRN: or

Stephanie Von Hinke Kessler Scholder (Contact Author)

University of Bristol ( email )

8 Woodland Road
Bristol, BS8 1TN
United Kingdom

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