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The passage of Title IX, the 1972 Education Amendments to the Civil Rights Act, expanded high school athletic opportunities to include girls, revolutionizing mass sports participation in the United States. This paper analyzes high school athletic participation in the United States and how sports offerings/or boysandgirlschangedsubsequent to the passage of this legislation. Girls’ sports participation rose dramatically both following the enactment of Title XJ and subsequent to enhancements to its enforcement. Approximately half of all girls currently participate in sports during high school: however, there remains a substantial gap between girls’ and boys’ participation in many states. States’ average education level and social attitudes regarding Title IX and women’s rights are correlated with this remaining gender gap. Examining individual high .school students, sports participation is seen more frequently among those with a privileged background: white students with married, wealthy, educated parents are more likely to play sports. This finding points to an overlooked fact—while Title IX benefited girls by increasing the opportunity to play sports, these benefits were disproportionately reaped by those at the top of the income distribution. {JEL J16, J18, J24,12) •• •.


Organized sports have long been an integral part of the American high school experience for boys. However, the same has not been historically true for girls. Indeed, girls only began playing sports in large numbers subsequent to the passage of legislation mandating gender equity in schools. Specifically, Title IX of the 1972 Educational Amendments required schools to provide equal access to all school activities, including, perhaps most controversially, sports. Thus began a transformation that has moved girls from the sidelines— cheering on the boys—onto the playing field.

*I want to thank the many generous friends and colleagues who have contributed to my thinking about Title IX and high school sports, including Richard Freeman, Claudia Goldin. Caroline Minter Hoxby, Lawrence Katz, Brigitte Madrian, Justin Wolfers, Todd Sinai, Matt White, Joel Waldfogel, and seminar participants at the Wharton Applied Economics Workshop. Adam Isen and Rachel Schwartz provided excellent research assistance. Special thanks go to Bruce Howard. John Gillis. and others at the National Federation of State High School Associations for their assistance in tracking down data. Generous funding from the Wharton Sports Business Initiative and the Zell/Lurie Real Estate Center is gratefully acknowledged.

Stevenson: Assistant Professor. Business and Public Policy Department. The Wharton School. The University of Pennsylvania. 1454 Steinberg Flail-Dietrich Hall. Philadelphia. PA 19104-6372. Phone 215-898-3019, Fax 215-898-7635, E-mail Betsey.stevenson@wharton.

This policy change has been politically contested since its inception and, while perhaps an overstatement, Suggs (2005, p. 2) refers to Title IX”s applicability to sports as “the most visible gender controversy of the past thirty years.” While this paper demonstrates the large effects of Title IX for mass sports participation, political commentary on Title IX has instead been dominated by discussions of its impact on a much smaller group, intercollegiate athletes. The political economy of this is perhaps unsurprising as Title IX’s highly concentrated fiscal impact on big-time sports universities led the National Collegiate Athletic Association to launch an aggressive lobbying effort against its applicability to sports, particularly “revenue-raising sports.” While these efforts have largely failed, they have succeeded in focusing most research on the impact of Title IX on the college sports experience. What is missing from this debate is an assessment of the sea change that Title IX brought to sports participation