The Use of Refundable Tax Credits to Increase Low-Income Children’s After-School Physical Activity Level

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
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Objective:

The current study investigates the extent to which a refundable tax credit could be used to increase low-income children’s after-school physical activity levels.

Methods:

An experimental study was conducted evaluating the effectiveness of an intervention offering a simulated refundable tax credit to parents of elementary-school-age children (n = 130) for enrollment in after-school physical activity programs. A randomized controlled design was used, with data collected at baseline, immediately following the 4-month intervention (postintervention), and 6 weeks after the end of the intervention (follow-up). Evaluation measures included (1) enrollment rate, time spent, weekly participation frequency, duration of enrollment, and long-term enrollment patterns in after-school physical activity programs and (2) moderate to vigorous physical activity.

Results:

The simulated tax credits did not significantly influence low-income children’s rates of enrollment in after-school physical activity programs, frequency of participation, time spent in after-school physical activity programs, and overall moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity at postintervention or follow-up.

Conclusion:

The use of refundable tax credits as incentives to increase participation in after-school physical activity programs in low-income families may have limited effectiveness. Lawmakers might consider other methods of fiscal policy to promote physical activity such as direct payment to after-school physical activity program providers for enrolling and serving a low-income child in a qualified program, or improvements to programming and infrastructure.

Dunton and Lane are with the Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California. Ebin and MW Efrat are with the Dept of Health Sciences; California State University at Northridge. R Efrat (rafi.efrat@csun.edu) is with the Dept of Accounting and Information Systems, California State University at Northridge. Plunkett is with the Dept of Psychology, California State University at Northridge.