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SIRC is pleased to be working together with Sport Canada to share current research on topics informing policy and promoting quality sport programming. This week we are sharing highlights of a recent article examining DETERMINANTS OF SPORT AND PHYSICAL ACTIVITY DECISIONS IN CANADA.

The Economic Choice of Participation and Time Spent in Physical Activity and Sport in Canada.

Humphreys, B.R., & Ruseski, J.E. (2015). International Journal of Sport Finance, 10(2), 138-159.

SIRC Highlights from the research

The Canadian Sport Policy aims to increase both the number and diversity of Canadians participating in sport between 2012-2022. Determinants of participation in sport and physical activity are central to understanding and achieving any increase in participation numbers. The authors have based their research on this goal by examining how “changes in key economic variables (income, wage, education, and occupation), individual characteristics (age and gender), and family structure (marital status and presence of children) affect individual decisions about participation and time spent in physical activity and sport”. This study uses data from the Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) Cycle 1.1 to develop evidence of economic determinants and uses a double hurdle model of the decisions to participate and the time spent in sport activities as a theoretical framework. In other words participation is a two-part decision; first the individual must choose to participate, and secondly they must decide how much time they will spend engaged in the activity relative to all other activities (sleep, eating, working, etc.). The following seven sports and physical activities were used as the basis of analysis: walking, swimming, exercising at home, cycling, running, golfing, and weight lifting.

Key findings:

  • The model identifies income and the opportunity cost of time (measured by hourly wage) as potentially important determinants of participation and time spent in participation.

Effect of Income:

  • The effect of income level on participation level and time spent on activities is inconsistent across the activities. However, when significant, individuals with higher income are more likely to participate, but when they participate they spend less time in the activity.
  • The policy implication inferred by the authors based on this finding suggests “consumers will respond differently to economic incentives to be physically active depending on whether the participation or time spent margin is targeted by the incentive”.

Effect of Opportunity Cost of Time:

  • Overall, the effect of a change in hourly wage has only a small impact on time spent participating in sport or physical activity.
  • Income seems to have a dominating effect on the amount of time spent on activities when education is also factored in to time spent decisions. Generally, more educated people tend to have higher paying jobs and thus higher opportunity costs of time. People with white-collar jobs spend more time participating per week than those in other types of jobs. People with high school or college education spend more time per week participating than those with less education.

Effect of Individual Characteristics and Family Structure:

  • Age: Age participation differs across sports and activities, but if they are participating, time spent decreases with age. Golf may be the exception to this as age has little effect either on participation or time spent. The program and policy implication suggested here is that programs aimed at increasing participation in older populations and encouraging physical activity over the life span should be particularly effective in encouraging participation.
  • Gender: Women are more likely to participate in all the identified sports and activities except golf. When it comes to time spent participating, men spend more time at the activity for cycling, golfing, weights, and running while women spend more time walking, exercising at home, and swimming. Generally, men are more likely to participate in activities that take longer while women are more likely to participate in less time-consuming activities.
  • Family Structure (marital status and young children in the house): Family structure plays a strong role in decision-making around both aspects of participation particularly on time spent on activities (golf is again the exception to this result). Marriage does not affect the participation decision, but does play a role in the time spent decision. Having young children varies participation and time spent across activities. The results indicate that marriage and having children places different demands on time and cost of time than being unmarried or childless. Activities where there is opportunities to participate as a couple or family are understandably more popular for those with these family structures. The policy implication suggested here is that targeted policy interventions for these sub-populations would be more effective than “one size fits all” policy.

The authors stress the importance of considering the two-step nature of decision-making when talking about participation rates for sport and physical activity. The research suggests that interventions that target specific-populations – or types of consumers – and focus on the separate aspects of the two-step decision-making process (participation and time spent) would be more effective.

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