The main objective of this thesis is to establish whether maternal employment leads to higher weight outcomes for Australian children. This is motivated by the growing epidemic of childhood obesity in Australia, which has major implications for the health care system and economy. There is a large body of evidence linking maternal employment to childhood obesity; however the evidence from Australia is mixed. Using panel data from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children, this thesis employs a range of econometric techniques to establish the maternal employment effect, controlling for unobserved latent heterogeneity in the model. This work builds on the existing Australian literature by investigating whether the impact of maternal employment varies between children according to the socioeconomic characteristics of the household. In addition, a unique contribution is made to the literature by examining the impact of maternal employment on children from single-mother households. This has not been considered in the literature to-date, and is an important area of research given the unique circumstances of these households.
The results show that maternal employment does lead to higher weight outcomes for Australian children, and that there is considerable heterogeneity in the maternal employment effect. Children from high income households, with less educated mothers, and a single-parent are most affected by their mothers’ employment. These findings provide direction for future research, and pave the way for targeted policies to address the childhood obesity epidemic.