TitleDoes mothers' employment affect adolescents' weight and activity levels? Improving our empirical estimates
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsMartin, MA, Lippert, AM, Chandler, KD, Lemmon, M
JournalSSM - Population Health
Pagination291 - 300
Date Published01/2018


  • Does increased maternal employment lead to higher adolescent obesity rates?
  • Research must account for mothers’ social selection into their work arrangements.
  • We use multiple measures of mothers’ work and individual fixed effects models.
  • Mothers’ work arrangements are unrelated to adolescent weight or physical activity.
  • Assorted mothers’ work arrangements predict adolescents’ sedentary behavior.

Women’s lives are marked by complex work and family routines — routines that have implications for their children’s health. Prior research suggests a link between mothers' work hours and their children’s weight, but few studies investigate the child health implications of increasingly common work arrangements, such as telecommuting and flexible work schedules. We examine whether changes in mothers’ work arrangements are associated with changes in adolescents’ weight, physical activity, and sedentary behavior using longitudinal data and fixed effects models to better account for mothers’ social selection in to different work arrangements and children’s underlying preferences. With data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (N = 10,518), we find that changes in mothers’ work arrangements are not significantly associated with adolescents’ weight gain or physical activity but are significantly associated with adolescents’ sedentary behavior. Adolescents’ sedentary behavior declines when mothers become more available after school and increases when mothers work more hours or become unemployed. In sum, after accounting for unobserved, stable traits, including mothers’ selection into jobs with more or less flexibility, mothers’ work arrangements are most strongly associated with adolescents’ sedentary behavior.

Short TitleSSM - Population Health