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Gender Equity Intercollegiate Athletics


Deborah J. Anderson John J. Cheslock Ronald G. Ehrenberg

Deborah Anderson is an Assistant Professor in the Educational Leadership Program at the University of Arizona. John Cheslock is Assistant Professor at the Center for the Study of Higher Education at the University of Arizona. Ronald Ehrenberg is the Irving M. Ives Professor of Industrial and Labor Relations and Economics at Cornell University and Director of the Cornell Higher Education Research Institute.

We thank the following people for assistance: Amaury Nora, Ron Oaxaca, Michael Olivas, J. Douglas Toma, participants in the 2002 IHELG Finance Roundtable, and three anonymous referees for helpful comments and suggestions; Yan Xie for excellent re-search assistance; Don Sabo and the Women’s Sports Foundation for providing 1995/96 EADA data; Pamela Maimer at the Department of Education for providing 2001/02 EADA data; Tammy Smith at the NCAA for providing division, football, and track and field/cross-country data.

The Journal of Higher Education, Vol. 77, No. 2 (March/April 2006) Copyright © 2006 by The Ohio State University


The year 2002 marked the 30th anniversary of the passage of Title IX, which prohibits discrimination by gender in any federally funded educational activity. Although the scope of Title IX in- includes all aspects of education, the application of Title IX to college athletics has been especially complicated because athletics programs, unlike most academic classes, usually are sex-segregated by sport. As explained in more detail below, Title IX essentially requires that all in- institutes of higher education provide student access to sport participation on a gender-neutral basis. As a result, athletic opportunities for female undergraduates have expanded significantly since 1972. For example, the female share of college athletes rose to 42% in 2001/02 from only 15% in 1972 (U.S. Department of Education, 1997, 2003). Despite this

Gender Equity in Intercollegiate Athletics: Determinants of Title IX Compliance



progress, gender equity is far from complete. Estimates from our data show that at the average institution in 2001/02, women comprised 55% of all students but only 42% of the varsity athletes.

Our research describes the level of noncompliance with Title IX, as measured by the proportionality gap, between 1995/96 and 2001/02, and then investigates why some institutions perform better than others do on this measure of gender equity. One important contribution of this article is the introduction of a new data set developed by the authors that in- cludes information on athletic offerings and other institutional charac- teristics for the 1995/96 and 2001/02 academic years. Our data represent a substantial improvement over previous data because we include insti- tutions in Divisions I, II, and III and adjust for changes in how institu- tions report athletic participation over the period; previous research fo- cused solely on Division I institutions and did not adjust for reporting differences. We show that these data differences are important: Reliance on unadjusted data from Division I institutions results in large overesti- mates of the improvement in compliance at NCAA institutions during the late 1990s. Our data also include a rich set of explanatory variables that we use in regression analyses to explain the extent of institutional noncompliance. We examine the determinants of the proportionality gap by estimating OLS cross-section regressions (with and without confer- ence fixed effects) at two points in time (1995/96 and 2001/02) and first- difference regressions for changes over the period.