Panel Paper: Can Sports Reduce Bullying? Estimating the Causal Effect of Sports Participation and Physical Exercise on Bullying during High School

Friday, November 9, 2018
8222 - Lobby Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Dimitrios Nikolaou, Illinois State University and Laura M. Crispin, Saint Joseph's University

Though recent studies have investigated the impact of bullying on educational and labor market outcomes,
there is still uncertainty about which school inputs or interventions can prevent students from being victims
of in-school bullying. In this paper, we argue that participation in sports (and physical activity in general)
alter the network composition of the students and develop health capital and human capital, which may
act as a deterrent against in-school student victimization. We begin with data on high school students
from the Youth Risk Behavioral Survey (YRBS) to examine whether sports participation affects individual
experiences of bullying. Because the YRBS data has limited demographic and schooling information, we
also use data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics - Childhood Development Supplement (PSID-CDS)
to evaluate whether the results differ between samples. Due to non-random selection of students in sports
activities, we instrument for sports using state-level participation rates. With the YRBS sample, we test
whether there are heterogeneous effects by age or gender. Overall, our findings provide evidence that sports
and physical activities may be an alternative pathway of decreasing, if not preventing, student exposure to
the deleterious effects of bullying, with effects ranging from -1pp to -20pp.