Maternal employment dynamics and childhood overweight: Evidence from Germany
Overweight and obesity in childhood are key indicators of child well-being that have often been linked with maternal employment because of its potential impact on children’s diet and physical activity. Based on data from the German Socio-Economic Panel on children born between 2002 and 2011 and their families this study investigates how maternal employment across the first 60 months after birth affects child overweight around age 6. The analysis contributes to the existing literature by using measures that capture mothers’ entire employment history instead of employment status at a particular point in time and by highlighting the analytical challenges that face studies of the effects of dynamic exposures such as maternal employment, particularly measurement of exposure histories and time-varying confounding. Overall, the results indicate that children who have experienced very different maternal employment sequences but are similar with regard to background characteristics such as maternal education, household income, and family structure show only minor and statistically insignificant disparities in the risk of overweight around age six. Only a later transition from nonemployment to part-time employment may lower the risk of overweight around age six compared to consistent nonemployment.
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