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

Objective: 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. Methods: 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. Results: 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. Conclusion: 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.