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The Impact of Physical Education on Obesity among Elementary School Children

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

No 6807, IZA Discussion Papers from Institute of Labor Economics (IZA)

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.

Keywords: obesity; physical activity; physical education; children; health (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: I12 I18 I21 H75 K32 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 40 pages
Date: 2012-08
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-edu, nep-hea and nep-ure
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Published in: Journal of Health Economics, 2013, 32 (4), 743-755

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Journal Article: The impact of physical education on obesity among elementary school children (2013) Downloads
Working Paper: The Impact of Physical Education on Obesity among Elementary School Children (2012) Downloads
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