Greater participation in high school sports has led to several positive outcomes for women in the labor force, including a greater presence in previously male-dominated fields, according to research by Betsey Stevenson of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
Previous research has linked participation in high school sports with higher wages for men. Stevenson found a similar positive relationship for women as well, but her research went a step further, studying whether athletic participation caused positive outcomes for women in education and the labor force.
To do this, Stevenson looked at outcomes before and after the passage of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which required schools to provide equal athletic opportunities to girls and boys. After the passage of Title IX, the participation rate for female students soared while the rate by male students remained relatively the same.
“A 10-percentage point rise in state-level female sports participation generates a 1 percentage point increase in female college attendance and a 1 to 2 percentage point rise in female labor force participation,” Stevenson writes. “Furthermore, greater opportunities to play sports leads to greater female participation in previously male-dominated occupations, particularly in high-skill occupations.”
Stevenson defined male-dominated occupations as those in which at least two-thirds of the workers under the age of 50 in 1970 were male. The percentage of women employed in these occupations rose from 12.9 percent in 1980 to 22.5 percent in 2000. During the same span, the percentage of women employed in female-dominated fields fell from 22.7 percent to 20.2 percent.
Stevenson found that “given that Title IX increased female participation by around 30 percentage points, this implies that Title IX is associated with a 1.5 percentage point increase in the probability that a women is in a male dominated occupation or 15 percent of the rise in female employment in male occupations.”
Source: Wharton School