Racial, Ethnic and Gender Differences in Physical Activity

Henry Saffer, Dhaval M. Dave, Michael Grossman

NBER Working Paper No. 17413
Issued in September 2011
NBER Program(s):Health Economics

This study examines racial, ethnic and gender differentials in physical activity. Individuals engage in physical activity during leisure-time and also during in many other activities such as walking to work, home maintenance, shopping and child care. Physical activity also occurs on the job is this is referred to as work physical activity. Prior studies have shown that non-work physical activity has a positive impact on health while work physical activity has a negative impact on health. Many prior studies have relied primarily on leisure-time physical activity, which typically constitutes only about 10% of non-work physical activity and does not capture specific information on the intensity or duration of the activity. This study addresses these limitations by constructing measures of physical activity from the American Time Use Surveys, which are all-inclusive and capture the duration of each activity combined with its intensity based on the Metabolic Equivalent of Task (MET). Non-work physical activity tends to be significantly lower for Blacks, Hispanics, other racial groups than for Whites and lower for males than for females. These adjusted differentials are consistent with racial, ethnic and gender differentials in health. About 25-46% of the differentials in non-work physical activity can be attributed to differences in education, socio-economic status, proxies for time constraints, and locational attributes.

download in pdf format
   (117 K)

email paper

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w17413

Published: Henry Saffer & Dhaval Dave & Michael Grossman & Leigh Ann Leung, 2013. "Racial, Ethnic, and Gender Differences in Physical Activity," Journal of Human Capital, University of Chicago Press, vol. 7(4), pages 378 - 410. citation courtesy of

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded* these:
Colman and Dave w17406 Exercise, Physical Activity, and Exertion over the Business Cycle
Baum and Chou w17423 The Socio-Economic Causes of Obesity
McInnes and Shinogle w15039 Physical Activity: Economic and Policy Factors
Colman and Dave w18858 Physical Activity and Health
Attanasio, Hurst, and Pistaferri w17982 The Evolution of Income, Consumption, and Leisure Inequality in The US, 1980-2010
NBER Videos

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email:

Contact Us