When Girls Play, Boys Pay

February 16, 2010 | NeW Staff

Last fall, we talked a lot about the decline in women’s happiness after a study conducted in part by Wharton Professor Betsey Stevenson.  Now, she has a new study about the impact of sports on the lives of young women; her results are potentially groundbreaking.

The New York Times reported this story today.  Here’s what Stevenson found: 

“Using a complex analysis, Dr. Stevenson showed that increasing girls’ sports participation had a direct effect on women’s education and employment. She found that 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.”

Many are claiming this proves that Title IX works.  And yes, this certainly does show a positive correlation between sports and overall health and well-being. But I think Stevenson’s remarks are the most telling on Title IX:

” ‘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,’ she said, adding, ‘While I only show this for girls, it’s reasonable to believe it’s true for boys as well.’ “

I don’t think anyone, even Title IX opponents, could reasonably argue that we should be discouraging girls from playing sports.  Many of us, either through personal experience or by watching others, have seen the positive impact that athletic participation has had for girls.  This study only further supports the notion that activity, team work, and discipline are good for young women.  

However, in effect, Title IX is actively discouraging athletic participation–for boys.  As a result of quotas and ratios enforced by the Policy Interpretation of 1979, young men are actively excluded from participation in collegiate sports.  We are denying men the very same rights denied to women only a few decades ago. 

Is this what is good for all young people?  Taking away opportunities from some to “equalize” the playing field?  Stevenson’s study shows that we should encourage young women to participate in sports, but we must also recognize that male participation in sports should not have to be limited in the name of equality.
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