Main findings in terms of "strikes against children of working mothers":
- more sugary beverages between meals
- used the television or computer more frequently
- driven to school more
- ate fewer fruits and vegetables
The economic questions are twofold: (1) what does this do to kids? (2) is there an economic interpretation for these results?
First, and let me be clear about this, the research seems to focus only on lifestyle. So the headline (about fatter kids) may or may not be right. If it is, these kids will probably have higher medical care spending in the long run. However, with those four "strikes" against them, the kids with working moms (on average) are likely to be heavier. It is always important to remember that this is just 'on average". There are plenty of healthy kids of working moms--and plenty of not so healthy kids of stay at home moms. And, if the differences are "statistically significant" but not necessarily clinically meaningful, it may not result in much heavier kids.
Second, there is a simple economic logic. The thought is that working moms have less time to monitor, occupy, and prepare healthy food for their children. This does not mean that if they were not working they would do any of these any less than moms who are not working now--they care about their kids just as much. It only means the constraints they face because of work lead to different choices. The Baltimore Sun commentary raises a point about what role dads play in this equation. Speaking from personal experience, I agree that it is unfair to place the whole burden on moms. The key is how parents or the combination of all those who care for a child's well being use their information and allocate their time, money, and effort to care for their children.
People with different information facing different constraints are likely to make different decisions. The piece in the Baltimore Sun reminds us of how this can affect the children.