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The impact of physical education on obesity among elementary school children

John Cawley (), David Frisvold () and Chad Meyerhoefer

Journal of Health Economics, 2013, vol. 32, issue 4, 743-755

Abstract: In response to the dramatic rise in childhood obesity, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other organizations have advocated increasing the amount of 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 the state's mandated minimum number of minutes of PE, 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. This effect is concentrated among boys; we find evidence that this gender difference is partly attributable to PE being a complement with other physical activity for boys, whereas they are substitutes for girls. This represents some of the first evidence of a causal effect of PE on youth obesity, and thus offers at least some support for 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.

Keywords: Obesity; Physical activity; Physical education; Children; Health (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: H75 I12 I18 I21 K32 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2013
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Working Paper: The Impact of Physical Education on Obesity among Elementary School Children (2012) Downloads
Working Paper: The Impact of Physical Education on Obesity among Elementary School Children (2012) Downloads
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DOI: 10.1016/j.jhealeco.2013.04.006

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Journal of Health Economics is currently edited by J. P. Newhouse, A. J. Culyer, R. Frank, K. Claxton and T. McGuire

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