January 2018

IZA DP No. 11268: For Better or Worse? The Effects of Physical Education on Child Development

Michael C. Knaus, Michael Lechner, Anne K. Reimers

This study analyses the effects of regular physical education at school on cognitive skills, non-cognitive skills, motor skills, physical activity, and health. It is based on a very informative data set, the German Motorik-Modul, and identifies the effect by using variation in the required numbers of physical education lessons across and within German federal states. The results show improvements in cognitive skills. Boys' non-cognitive skills are adversely affected driven by increased peer relation problems. For girls, the results suggest improvements in motor skills and increased extra-curricular physical activities. Generally, we find no statistically significant effects on health parameters.