Physical Activity: Economic and Policy Factors
NBER Working Paper No. 15039
While much research has focused on the costs of obesity and economic factors that drive obesity growth, little economic research has examined the factors that contribute to obesity -- physical inactivity and poor nutrition. This paper will examine correlates and predictors of physical activity over time with emphasis on economic factors. We use data for adults from the 2000-2005 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey that includes state and county codes for each individual that allows us to add supplementary data on state beer and cigarette taxes, local transportation costs, availability of gyms and recreational facilities, county unemployment, crime rates, and prices of related goods. We find that income and education has a strong and consistently positive effect on physical activity across specifications. Sin taxes have no effect on the likelihood of any exercise but generally have negative effects on vigorous exercise or moderate and vigorous exercise. Physical activity is more likely when there are more parks per capita in a county. Our results above are robust to the inclusion of weight status and use of flu shots (a measure of an individual's tendency towards prevention).