Expert Commentary

Beyond the classroom: Using Title IX to measure the return to high school sports

2010 paper by the University of Michigan for the National Bureau of Economic Research examining the effect in later life of girls' participation in sports.

Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972, known as “Title Nine,” requires funding equity for boys’ and girls’ athletic programs in institutions that receive federal funding. To comply with the act, by 1978 U.S. high schools increased their female sports participation significantly, from 4% in 1972 to 25% four years later. Boys’ participation was stable during this period at about 50%, indicating that female athletic opportunities did not come at the expense of male opportunities in this early period.

While the act was effective in increasing women’s participation in sports, the question remained open as to its effect on their lives once they left school. A 2010 paper by the University of Michigan for the National Bureau of Economic Research paper, “Beyond the Classroom: Using Title IX to Measure the Return to High School Sports,” finds significant positive effects from Title IX on women’s education and employment.

Key findings include:

  • The return to participating in high school sports for women is similar to that of men. On average, those who participate in sports receive 0.4 years more education and 8% higher wages.
  • Analysis revealed that a 10% rise in state-level female sports participation generates a 1% increase in female college attendance, a 1% to 2% rise in female labor force participation, and greater female participation in previously male-dominated, high-skill occupations.

Title IX may explain about 20% of the rise in female educational attainment during the period, the researcher notes. In addition, up to 40% of the overall rise in the employment of women ages 25 to 34 years old may be attributed to Title IX.

Keywords: sports, higher education, civil rights, exercise

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