The Effects of Maternal Employment on the Health of School-Age Children

Melinda Sandler Morrill, University of Maryland

An increasing number of women with children participated in the labor force over the past several decades, leading researchers from a variety of disciplines to consider the impact of maternal employment on children's health. The net effects are theoretically ambiguous given that maternal employment increases family income but places additional burdens on a mother’s time. Empirical identification is difficult because a mother's choice to work is endogenous. A child's health may directly affect a mother's labor supply, or a mother's choice to work may be indicative of the mother's preferences and skills. In this paper, I implement an instrumental variables strategy using data from the restricted version of the National Health Interview Survey (1985-2004). I measure the causal effect by utilizing exogenous variation in each child's youngest sibling's eligibility for kindergarten. I show that having a working mother increases the probability a child will have an adverse health event.

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Presented in Session 9: Mother’s Work and Child Outcomes