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The impact of state physical education requirements on youth physical activity and overweight

Author

Listed:
  • John Cawley

    (Cornell University, New York, USA)

  • Chad Meyerhoefer

    (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Washington DC, USA)

  • David Newhouse

    (International Monetary Fund, Washington DC, USA)

Abstract

To combat childhood overweight in the US, which has risen dramatically in the past three decades, many medical and public health organizations have called for students to spend more time in physical education (PE) classes. This paper is the first to examine the impact of state PE requirements on student PE exercise time. It also exploits variation in state laws as quasi-natural experiments in order to estimate the causal impact of PE on overall student physical activity and weight. We study nationwide data from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System for 1999, 2001, and 2003 merged with data on state minimum PE requirements from the 2001 Shape of the Nation Report. We find that high school students with a binding PE requirement report an average of 31 additional minutes per week spent physically active in PE class. Our results also indicate that additional PE time raises the number of days per week that girls report having exercised vigorously or having engaged in strength-building activity. We find no evidence that PE lowers BMI or the probability that a student is overweight. We conclude that raising PE credit requirements may make girls more physically active overall but there is not yet the scientific base to declare raising PE requirements an anti-obesity initiative for either boys or girls. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Suggested Citation

  • John Cawley & Chad Meyerhoefer & David Newhouse, 2007. "The impact of state physical education requirements on youth physical activity and overweight," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 16(12), pages 1287-1301.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:hlthec:v:16:y:2007:i:12:p:1287-1301
    DOI: 10.1002/hec.1218
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    1. repec:aph:ajpbhl:2004:94:9:1501-1506_0 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Imbens, Guido W & Angrist, Joshua D, 1994. "Identification and Estimation of Local Average Treatment Effects," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(2), pages 467-475, March.
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    4. Burkhauser, Richard V. & Cawley, John, 2008. "Beyond BMI: The value of more accurate measures of fatness and obesity in social science research," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 519-529, March.
    5. Douglas Staiger & James H. Stock, 1997. "Instrumental Variables Regression with Weak Instruments," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 65(3), pages 557-586, May.
    6. repec:aph:ajpbhl:1993:83:2:262-264_0 is not listed on IDEAS
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    JEL classification:

    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health
    • I2 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education

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