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The Impact of Physical Education on Obesity among Elementary School Children

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  • John Cawley
  • David Frisvold
  • Chad Meyerhoefer

Abstract

In response to the dramatic rise in childhood obesity, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other organizations have advocated increasing the time that elementary school children spend in physical education (PE) classes. However, little is known about the effect of PE on child weight. This paper measures that effect by instrumenting for child PE time with state policies, using data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Cohort (ECLS-K) for 1998-2004. Results from IV models indicate that PE lowers BMI z-score and reduces the probability of obesity among 5th graders (in particular, boys), while the instrument is insufficiently powerful to reliably estimate effects for younger children. This represents some of the first evidence of a causal effect of PE on youth obesity, and thus offers at least some support to the assumptions behind the CDC recommendations. We find no evidence that increased PE time crowds out time in academic courses or has spillovers to achievement test scores.

Suggested Citation

  • John Cawley & David Frisvold & Chad Meyerhoefer, 2012. "The Impact of Physical Education on Obesity among Elementary School Children," NBER Working Papers 18341, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18341
    Note: CH ED HE LE PE
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. repec:aph:ajpbhl:2004:94:9:1501-1506_0 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. 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.
    3. Stock, James H & Wright, Jonathan H & Yogo, Motohiro, 2002. "A Survey of Weak Instruments and Weak Identification in Generalized Method of Moments," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 20(4), pages 518-529, October.
    4. Cawley, John & Ruhm, Christopher J., 2011. "The Economics of Risky Health Behaviors," Handbook of Health Economics, Elsevier.
    5. Dills, Angela K. & Morgan, Hillary N. & Rotthoff, Kurt W., 2011. "Recess, physical education, and elementary school student outcomes," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(5), pages 889-900, October.
    6. 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.
    7. repec:mpr:mprres:6209 is not listed on IDEAS
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Felfe, Christina & Lechner, Michael & Steinmayr, Andreas, 2011. "Sports and Child Development," CEPR Discussion Papers 8523, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    2. Trenton G. Smith & Attila Tasnádi, 2014. "The Economics of Information, Deep Capture, and the Obesity Debate," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 96(2), pages 533-541.
    3. Lechner, Michael, 2016. "Empirical Evidence on Educational Effects of Physical Activity: Four Examples," Economics Working Paper Series 1619, University of St. Gallen, School of Economics and Political Science.
    4. Hu, Yingyao & Sasaki, Yuya, 2015. "Closed-form estimation of nonparametric models with non-classical measurement errors," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 185(2), pages 392-408.
    5. Dragone, D. & Ziebarth, N.R., 2015. "Non-Separable Time Preferences and Novelty Consumption: Theory and Evidence from the East German Transition to Capitalism," Health, Econometrics and Data Group (HEDG) Working Papers 15/28, HEDG, c/o Department of Economics, University of York.
    6. Taylor, Eric, 2014. "Spending more of the school day in math class: Evidence from a regression discontinuity in middle school," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 117(C), pages 162-181.
    7. Cawley, John, 2015. "An economy of scales: A selective review of obesity's economic causes, consequences, and solutions," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(C), pages 244-268.
    8. Yamamura, Eiji, 2015. "Impact of the Fukushima nuclear accident on obesity of children in Japan, using data from 2008 to 2014," MPRA Paper 67076, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    9. Dragone, Davide & Ziebarth, Nicolas R., 2015. "Economic Development, Novelty Consumption, and Body Weight: Evidence from the East German Transition to Capitalism," IZA Discussion Papers 8967, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    10. Paul Dolan & Matteo M. Galizzi, 2014. "Because I'm Worth It: A Lab-Field Experiment on the Spillover Effects of Incentives in Health," CEP Discussion Papers dp1286, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    11. Lichtman-Sadot, Shirlee, 2016. "Does banning carbonated beverages in schools decrease student consumption?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 140(C), pages 30-50.
    12. Patricia M. Anderson & Kristin F. Butcher & Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, 2017. "Adequate (or Adipose?) Yearly Progress: Assessing the Effect of “No Child Left Behind” on Children's Obesity," Education Finance and Policy, MIT Press, vol. 12(1), pages 54-76, Winter.
    13. Yamamura, Eiji, 2016. "Impact of the Fukushima nuclear accident on obesity of children in Japan (2008–2014)," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 21(C), pages 110-121.
    14. Dragone, Davide & Ziebarth, Nicolas R., 2017. "Non-separable time preferences, novelty consumption and body weight: Theory and evidence from the East German transition to capitalism," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 51(C), pages 41-65.
    15. Donal O’Neill & Olive Sweetman, 2016. "Bounding obesity rates in the presence of self-reporting errors," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 50(3), pages 857-871, May.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H75 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - State and Local Government: Health, Education, and Welfare
    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • K32 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - Energy, Environmental, Health, and Safety Law

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