Does playing sports or going to the gym help your career? In a new IZA discussion paper, Paul Downward and Michael Lechner investigate effect of sports participation on employment and earnings for England. The study is based on a unique dataset measuring participation in different types of sports, various labor market outcomes, and the availability of local sports facilities.
Downward and Lechner find a clear and positive association between labor market outcomes and sports participation, even when accounting for such factors as health or family composition, which could affect both sports participation and labor market success. The results suggest that sports has a positive effect on initial employment and on income opportunities at higher ages. Different types of sports have different effects: While participation in team sports is broadly associated with increased employability, fitness and outdoor activities have stronger associations with income.