It is important to recognize that the decisions made by children and adolescents concerning their health are not always in their own best interest or those of society as a whole. As a result, interventions to improve child health are necessary, but they need to be evidence-based rather than simply intuitively appealing. One example of the latter are the physical education (PE) requirements that have been instituted by many states over the past several years. Prior research suggests that more PE may not lead to lower rates of obesity or greater activity levels without complementary changes to PE curriculums. This is likely because the traditional emphasis on teaching athletic skills and promoting competitive team sports comes, in part, at the cost of individualized activities that raise physical activity more directly. In addition, while competitiveness in athletics can help to foster commitment to a particular activity or team, athletic program directors need to make sure that competition does not serve to exclude large segments of the student body from the opportunities to become more physically active, or crowd-out less competitive yet more inclusive intramural sports.
Assistant Professor of Economics