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Spillovers of Health Education at School on Parents' Health Lifestyles

Lucila Berniell, Dolores de la Mata, Nieves Valdés
Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, Spain

To prevent modern diseases such as obesity and cardiovascular conditions, which have reached epidemic-like proportions in the last decades, many health experts have called for students to receive Health Education (HED) at school. Although this type of education aims mainly to improve children's health pro_les, it might also affect other family members. This paper exploits state HED reforms as quasi-natural experiments to estimate the causal impact of HED on parental lifestyles, in particular on those related to physical activity. We use data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) for the period 1999-2005 merged with data on state HED reforms from the 2000 and 2006 School Health Policies and Programs Study (SHPPS). To identify the spillover e_ects of HED requirements on parents' behavior we use a differences-in-differences" (DDD) methodology in which we allow for different types of treatments. We found evidence of a positive effect of HED reforms at elementary school on parents' frequency of light physical activity. The implementation of HED increases fathers's probability of doing physical activity seven times per week in 18.6 percentage points, although it does not seem to affect mothers' frequency of physical activity. We discuss alternative channels that may drive these spillovers. We conclude that information sharing between children and parents as well as the specialization of parents in doing gendered activities with their children may play a role in generating these spillovers and in turn in shaping healthy lifestyles within the household.

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