Professor Betsey Stevenson of the Wharton School at UPenn examined the effect of Title IX on athletic participation at U.S. high schools, and published her study in the current issue of Contemporary Economic Policy (SSRN version is here).
Stevenson's analysis of participation data compiled by the National Federation of High Schools confirms the statistical narrative that we've noted here before, namely, that female participation rates have increased since Title IX and male participation rates have remained stable and higher on the whole. She also reports that while boys' participation rates overall have been both stable and high, particular sports have trended both upwards and downward in popularity. For example, high school football, baseball, and soccer (especially soccer!) have gained participants since 1971 while basketball, track, and wrestling have lost.
Stevenson also analyzed high school participation rates for each gender by state, and discovered that socioeconomic demographics and political climate correlate to gendered patterns of athletic participation. For example, in states with more urban populations, boys tend to have higher participation rates than girls. But in states with more college educated populations, and in states that spend more per pupil, the gender gap is smaller and boys and girls participation rates are more similar. Moreover, female athletes fare better in states where the population is more likely to agree that women should have access to abortions, and fare worse in states where the population is more likely to agree that women should "take care of running the home and leave the running of the country up to men."
These results suggest that the benefits of Title IX have inured disportionately to those who are socioeconomically advantaged. They also suggest that athletic participation for girls is part of a greater social movement towards equality and that "as attitudes [about women's equality generally] change, so will the gender gap in sports participation."
Citation: Stevenson, B. (2007). Title IX and the evolution of high school sports. Contemporary Economic Policy, 25(4), 486-505.
Via Odd Numbers.