Academic Scholarship

Recess, Physical Education, and Elementary School Student Outcomes

Economics of Education Review Volume 30, Issue 5, pages 889-900, October 2011

Photo Needed Kurt W. Rotthoff, Ph.D.
Department of Economics and Legal Studies
Angeal K Dills, Hillary Morgan

Today’s children experience a decreased amount of time at recess and fewer physical education (PE) classes throughout the school day. Breaks for physical activity limit class time for academics, potentially reducing learning. However, breaks may improve alertness and achievement. Using the Early Childhood Longitudinal Survey Kindergarten Class of 1998-1999, we evaluate how recess and PE in elementary school influence children’s learning. We find no statistically significant or economically significant impacts of weekly recess or PE time on student learning for kindergarteners through fifth graders. For example, in kindergarten, adding an hour a week of recess reduces the average test score gain in reading by a statistically insignificant 0.01 standard deviations. An additional 49 minutes per week of PE in kindergarten improves reading test score gains by a statistically insignificant 0.05 standard deviations. We find no statistical difference in the male and female students’ response to recess and PE. Evidence suggests that recess and PE do not harm student outcomes.


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