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J Phys Act Health. 2015 Jun;12(6):840-53. doi: 10.1123/jpah.2014-0058. Epub 2014 Sep 3.

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

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Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California.



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.


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.


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.


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.

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