The Promotion of Well-being through Sporting Activities
New Horizons in the Economics of Sport series
Edited by Plácido Rodríguez, Stefan Késenne and Brad R. Humphreys
* Joseph Price and Daniel H. Simon 1. INTRODUCTION The public generally views sports as an effective way to help youth learn life skills, stay out of trouble, finish high school and go on to college. Of particular interest is the ability of sports to help young women. For example, a recent Nike advertisement includes the following lines along with images of teenage girls playing sports: ‘If you let me play, I will have more self-confidence, I will suffer less depression, I will be 60% less likely to get breast cancer, I will be more likely to leave a man who beats me, I will be less likely to get pregnant before I want to.’ A growing body of research documents a strong positive connection between participation in high school sports and the types of outcomes mentioned in this Nike advertisement. The primary challenge in testing the impact of sports participation on these type of outcomes, is that unobserved factors could influence both sports participation and the outcome of interest (yielding a spurious correlation).We provide evidence of this type of spurious correlation using data from a nationally representative dataset of youth. We find that the simple correlation between sports participation and teenage pregnancy declines by about half (and loses statistical significance) when we control for basic demographic characteristics such as race, family income and whether both parents are present in the home. The ideal research design would be a randomized control trial where some girls are assigned to play sports...
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