Mom’s Income, Junior’s Illness

When Mother finds employment outside the home, she is likely to spend part of her paycheck on medical care for her young child. The relationship between a mother’s employment and her child’s illness receives scrutiny in a study by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Baruch College in New York. That relationship may prompt new questions about the social costs of the movement of young mothers into the paid workforce. When the authors of the study parse data for a national sample of young children and their mothers, they discern a clear but provocative linkage: “The incidence of infectious disease is higher among children of working mothers than among children of nonworking mothers,” with the gap being particularly pronounced for one-year-olds (p.05 for respiratory problems and ear infections). Further analysis establishes “a dose-response” relationship between maternal employment and two-year-old children’s illnesses: that is, among two-year-olds, the more their mother works outside the home, the more illnesses their children suffer. The researchers recognize that they have just produced findings likely to arouse controversy among today’s politically correct professoriate. Perhaps as a consequence, they deploy sophisticated statistical models that take into account various background circumstances. Such models can help deflect attention away from maternal employment per se. Indeed, these models strongly implicate nonmaternal child care, particularly institutional daycare, as the reason that children of employed mothers experience more illnesses than do children cared for at home by their non-employed mothers. “On average,” the researchers report, “substitute care increases the incidence of respiratory illness relative to maternal care. In other words, the ‘quality’ of nonmaternal child care, as measured by incidence of respiratory illness, is lower than the ‘quality’ of maternal child care, and this quality shor
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