Doctoral dissertation 26.1.

Childhood physical activity is positively related to educational and labor market success

M.Sc. Jaana Kari defends her doctoral dissertation in Economics ”Lifelong physical activity and long-term labor market outcomes”. Opponent Professor Ismo Linnosmaa (University of Eastern Finland) and custos Professor Jaakko Pehkonen (University of Jyväskylä).

January, 26, 2018 12:00 PM
Location: University of Jyväskylä, Finland, Seminaarinmäki, S212

Childhood physical activity is related to long-term educational and labor market outcomes. According to Jaana Kari’s dissertation, physically active children have better academic achievement at the end of compulsory basic education, and higher educational attainment and earnings as adult. In addition, their labor market attachment is higher compared with less active children.

- At the end of compulsory basic education, physically active children had a grade-point-average that was approximately half a unit higher compared with those with lower physical activity levels. In adulthood, the more physically active children had about one additional year of education in comparison to the less active. Moreover, they had higher long-term earnings on average and better labor market attachment in comparison to the physically less active, Kari clarifies.

- The results were robust to the addition of various controls, including birth month, individuals’ health endowments, family income, and parents’ education.

Physical activity may have far-reaching implications

The doctoral thesis examined the associations between leisure-time physical activity, educational attainment, and labor market outcomes during different phases of life.

- The life course perspective is important, since the impact of physical activity may take time to materialize.

- Approximately only one-third of Finnish children and adolescents fulfil the recommendation of at least one hour of daily physical activity. Along with the widely acknowledged health effects of physical activity, this study suggests that childhood physical activity might also positively contribute to subsequent educational and labor market outcomes.

- From a policy perspective, these findings encourage to maintain and develop programs and interventions aimed at promoting children’s participation in physical activity regardless of their socioeconomic background. This policy could encourage young people to pursue a more physically active lifestyle in childhood and beyond and thereby potentially improve their educational and labor market outcomes later in life, providing both personal and societal benefits.

- Highly educated and productive labor force is one of the key factors behind economic growth. From the economic perspective, the findings of the thesis provide evidence that childhood physical activity could be considered as an investment, the results of which can be seen in academic achievement, educational attainment, and work lives.

Over 30-year follow up

Data of the thesis were drawn from the ongoing longitudinal Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns Study (YFS) and from registries compiled by Statistics Finland. The YFS was launched in 1980, when over 3,500 children and adolescent participated in the baseline study. Information on physical activity during different phases of life was drawn from the YFS, including, among others, data on the frequency of leisure-time physical activity, participation in sports club training sessions, and participation in sports competitions. To obtain register-based information on educational and labor market outcomes, the YFS data were linked with Finnish Longitudinal Employer-Employee Data (FLEED) of Statistics Finland.

More information:

Jaana Kari received her master’s degree in Economics from the University of Jyväskylä, Finland, in 2010. Kari has been working as a researcher at the LIKES Research Centre for Physical Activity and Health since 2010. She also worked as a project researcher at the Jyväskylä University School of Business and Economics in 2017.

The dissertation was funded by the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture, the Juho Vainio Foundation, the Yrjö Jahnsson Foundation, the Academy of Finland, and the OP Group Research Foundation.

The dissertation was published in the Jyväskylä Studies in Business and Economics series, issue 184, Jyväskylä 2018, ISSN 1457-1986, ISBN 978-951-7326-1 (pdf), ISBN 978-951-7325-4 (print). An online version is available at