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Evidence on the Efficacy of School-Based Incentives for Healthy Living

Harold E. Cuffe, William T. Harbaugh, Jason M. Lindo, Giancarlo Musto, Glen R. Waddell

NBER Working Paper No. 17478
Issued in October 2011
NBER Program(s):The Program on Children, The Education Program, The Health Economics Program

We analyze the effects of a school-based incentive program on children's exercise habits. The program offers children an opportunity to win prizes if they walk or bike to school during prize periods. We use daily child-level data and individual fixed effects models to measure the impact of the prizes by comparing behavior during prize periods with behavior during non-prize periods. Variation in the timing of prize periods across different schools allows us to estimate models with calendar-date fixed effects to control for day-specific attributes, such as weather and proximity to holidays. On average, we find that being in a prize period increases riding behavior by sixteen percent, a large impact given that the prize value is just six cents per participating student. We also find that winning a prize lottery has a positive impact on ridership over subsequent weeks; consider heterogeneity across prize type, gender, age, and calendar month; and explore differential effects on the intensive versus extensive margins.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w17478

Published: Cuffe, H.E. & Harbaugh, W.T. & Lindo, J.M. & Musto, G. & Waddell, G.R., 2012. "Evidence on the efficacy of school-based incentives for healthy living," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(6), pages 1028-1036. citation courtesy of

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