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THE CORRELATION OF YOUTH PHYSICAL ACTIVITY WITH STATE POLICIES

John Cawley (), Chad Meyerhoefer and David Newhouse

Contemporary Economic Policy, 2007, vol. 25, issue 4, 506-517

Abstract: Childhood overweight has risen dramatically in the United States during the past three decades. The search for policy solutions is limited by a lack of evidence regarding the effectiveness of state policies for increasing physical activity among youths. This paper estimates the correlation of student physical activity with a variety of state policies. We study nationwide data on high school students from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System for 1999, 2001, and 2003 merged with data on state policies from several sources. We control for a variety of characteristics of states and students to mitigate bias due to the endogenous selection of policies, but we conservatively interpret our results as correlations, not causal impacts. Two policies are positively correlated with participation in physical education (PE) class for both boys and girls: a binding PE unit requirement and a state PE curriculum. We also find that state spending on parks and recreation is positively correlated with two measures of girls’ overall physical activity. (JEL I18, I28)

Date: 2007
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