Together Stronger Women, Sport and Equal Justice

Posted: February 16th, 2012

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Social science research demonstrates how important physical activity is for the full development of the person. For example, recent studies on the impact of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 on progress in the work place and human health found that equal access to sports makes a long-term difference in a person’s life. “It’s not just that the people who are going to do well in life play sports, but that sports help people do better in life,” according to Betsey Stevenson, the author of the report. “While I only show this for girls, it’s reasonable to believe it’s true for boys as well.”

“A large body of research shows that sports are associated with all sorts of benefits, like lower teenage pregnancy rates, better grades and higher self-esteem. But until now, no one has determined whether those improvements are a direct result of athletic participation. . . . Now, separate studies from two economists offer some answers, providing the strongest evidence yet that team sports can result in lifelong improvements to educational, work and health prospects,” according to the New York Times.

Using a complex analysis, a study from the University of Pennsylvania showed that increasing girls’ sports participation had a direct effect on women’s education and employment. The changes set in motion by Title IX explained about 20 percent of the increase in women’s education, and about 40 percent of the rise in employment for 25-to-34-year-old women. The study untangles the effects of sports participation from other confounding factors — school size, climate, social and personal differences among athletes — and comes closer to determining a cause and effect relationship between high school sports participation and achievement later in life. A separate study from the University of Illinois at Chicago found that the increase in girls’ athletic participation following the enactment of Title IX was associated with a 7 percent lower risk of obesity 20 to 25 years later, when women were in their late 30s and early 40s.

See The City Project’s Policy Report Healthy Parks, Schools and Communities: Green Access and Equity for Southern California at page 19 and authorities cited (2011).