April 25, 2016

Sports can improve children’s educational attainment, study shows

Participating in organized sports and after-school clubs can improve children’s academic performance, according to a UK-based study.

Research commissioned by the Nuffield Foundation charity found that children taking part in organized sport at the ages five, seven, and 11 were almost one and a half times more likely to achieve higher than expected results in standardized math tests taken at age 11.

The authors of the study also note a link between sports participation and social, emotional and behavioral skills. However, they found no effect on test results in English or science.

Lead researcher Emily Tanner of NatCen Social Research commented that: “For children from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, who have lower take-up of formal out of school activities, school-based clubs appear to offer an affordable and inclusive means of supporting academic attainment.”

The link between participation in sports and academic achievement is discussed by Michael Leeds in his article for IZA World of Labor. He writes: “Most evidence supports the hypothesis that sports improve cognitive and non-cognitive skills. These findings justify continued support of sports by US school districts. They also suggest that European schools might want to expand their sports programs beyond basic fitness activities or that European governments might want to subsidize private sports clubs.”

The Nuffield study can be read in full here.

Related articles:
Youth sports and the accumulation of human capital by Michael A. Leeds
Sports, exercise, and labor market outcomes by Michael Lechner
Find more IZA World of Labor articles about education and human capital