Maternal Employment and Food Purchased for at-Home Consumption
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
However, less than half of all food expenditures are for food prepared away from home (US Department of Agriculture, 2012). Therefore, the majority of food is purchased for at-home consumption. This paper studies the effect of maternal employment on the quantity and the quality (as measured by the Healthy Eating Index) of food purchased for at-home consumption. I use Nielsen Consumer Panel data from 2006 to 2012 matched to UPC-level nutrition information to provide a detailed picture of the impact of maternal employment on household food purchases. Because maternal employment is likely endogenous to household food purchases, I estimate models using the youngest sibling’s kindergarten eligibility as an instrument for maternal employment (Morrill, 2011).
The impact of maternal employment on the quantity and the quality of food purchased for at-home consumption likely varies by household characteristics. For example, lower income working mothers may increase the quality of their children’s diets by purchasing more fruits and vegetables than they would have been able to afford without her income. Whereas, higher income mothers (with higher opportunity costs) may rely on more prepackaged ready-to-eat meals than they would have if they did not work. Therefore, I further investigate the quantity and the diet quality of food purchased for at-home consumption by income, education, and race.
The existing literature on the mechanisms through which maternal employment affects childhood obesity has focused on child supervision and food prepared outside of the household (Cawley & Liu, 2012; Datar, Nicosia, & Shier, 2014; Morrissey, Dunifon, & Kalil, 2011). There is little consensus on whether or not these mediating factors affect child body weight. Therefore, I extend this body of literature by looking for other potential mechanisms within household expenditures on food purchased for at-home consumption.