Wharton: Title Nine - Girls' Sports Lead to Gains in Life
June 24, 2012
Most schools in the United States receive money from federal programs.
That means most schools must obey a federal law known as Title Nine.
It bars discrimination on the basis of sex at any educational
institution that receives federal money. An exception is made for
admissions at private undergraduate schools. For others, Title Nine
covers "any education program or activity" receiving federal financial
The full name is Title Nine of the Education Amendments of nineteen
seventy-two. A lot of Americans may be surprised to know that it was
written without saying anything directly about sports. Yet that is where
its effects are best known, especially at the high school level.
After Title Nine became law, the number of girls who joined high school
sports teams sharply increased.
Research has linked participation in sports to positive effects like
better self-image, fewer teen pregnancies and higher grades. But are
these a direct result?
Two recent studies suggest that the answer is yes. They offer long-term
evidence that it can lead to improvements in education, work and health.
Betsey Stevenson is a business and public policy researcher at the
Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
compared states, looking at differences in high school sports
participation and in women's education and work. For each ten percentage
point increase in sports participation, she found a one point increase
in female college attendance. She also linked it to a one to two point
increase in the number of women in the labor force.
The other study looked at physical health. Robert Kaestner is an
economics professor at the University of Illinois in Chicago. He
compared obesity rates and physical activity levels of women who had
been in high school before and after Title Nine took effect. He found
that those who came after Title Nine had a seven percent lower risk of
obesity twenty to twenty-five years later.
Nicole LaVoi is associate director of the Tucker Center for Research on
Girls and Women in Sport at the University of Minnesota. She says the
new studies are important because they show trends over time. Still, she
says, far more boys than girls join sports teams nearly forty years
after Title Nine gave girls a chance to level the playing field.