Against the mainstream: Field evidence on a positive link between media consumption and the demand for sports among children

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The physical health of individuals is degenerating worldwide. The decrease in sporting activities among young people appears critical, as most life habits evolve during childhood. Among others, the rising share of media consumption among children is thought to be a primary determinant of the decline in demand for sports participation. Consequently, the mainstream of past studies on demand for media consumption and health argue with a “per se” negative link between TV consumption and physical activities. To shed new light on this, we investigate the impact of the Japanese animated cartoon (anime) “Attack No 1” on youth volleyball participation in Germany in the mid-1990s. We base our estimations on official club membership data (1985–2007) and use a difference-in-differences (DID) approach to empirically estimate the anime's causal effect on youth volleyball participation. With an average annual growth rate of 22.75%, the results show a strong short-term volleyball boom among young girls after the anime. Numbers also increased slightly among male adolescents. Correlations did not suggest solid long-term effects. However, based on the available data, no causal statements regarding long-term effects were possible either.
Additionally, we found no evidence that suggests substitution effects. Instead, accumulated youth female enrollments rose by 2.1% during the broadcasting time. Spill-over effects on non-ball-based sports have not been identified. We conclude that TV content portraying sports might work as a nudge to increase sports demand among young people. Thus, the production or streaming of sport-related animated cartoons should be incentivized to a greater extent.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)317-336
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 05.2022

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© 2022 The Authors. Kyklos published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

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