The Effect of Maternal Work Hours on Children’s Mental Health

Student Author(s)

Trevor Barker

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Sarah Estelle, Economics

Document Type


Event Date



In the United States only 12 percent of U.S. workers have paid family leave benefits from their private employer (U.S. Department of Labor). WIth the labor force participation rate of women with young children (under three years of age) increasing, from 34.3 percent in 1975 to 61.4 percent in 2015, this raises the question of the consequences of working mothers on young children. If maternal employment reduces the quantity or quality of interactions with her child, there may be unintended negative consequences for a child’s mental health. Alternatively, employment may increase maternal fulfillment or provide benefits such as increased medical care, which may improve child well-being. This research examines the effect of maternal work hours during early childhood on the child’s mental health later in life. Data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 and the accompanying child supplement allow for a family fixed effects strategy that will account for unobservable family-specific characteristics that would otherwise confound the effect this research aims to estimate.

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