Maternal Work Hours and Adolescents’ School Outcomes among Low-Income Families in Four Urban Counties

Leonard M. Lopoo, Syracuse University
Andrew S. London, Syracuse University

We examine how changes in maternal work hours affect adolescents' school participation and performance outcomes using data from interviews in 1998 and 2001 with 1,700 women who are single mothers of adolescents living in the most-disadvantaged neighborhoods in four urban counties. We find unfavorable effects of maternal work hours on several aspects of adolescents’ schooling: Full-time maternal employment increases the likelihood of skipping school, decreases adolescent school performance, and increases the likelihood of parent contact by a school about behavior problems. Sons seem to be particularly sensitive to changes in mothers’ average hours of work, with notable increases in incidences of being late for school and declines in school performance when mothers work more hours. These findings hold up controlling for a rich array of mothers’ characteristics, including their psychological and physical health and experiences with domestic and substance abuse, as well as unobserved time-invariant characteristics of the adolescent.

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Presented in Session 124: Effects of Work Hours on Families and Children