Economists: Equal Access To Sports Has Boosted Incomes And Education For Women

Title IX, which was enacted 40 years ago this week, ensures that publicly funded schools give similar opportunities to all students regardless of sex. The law is widely credited with boosting women’s participation in sports, which as economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers note in Bloomberg Views today, has boosted incomes and education levels for women:

High school athletics confer substantial economic benefits that last throughout participants’ lives. When one compares people with similar educational opportunities, family backgrounds, measures of intelligence and self-esteem, the annual wages of former athletes are, on average, 7 percent higher than nonathletes. Similarly, athletes get almost half a year more education than nonathletes. The gains occur equally for girls and boys. […]

In those states where Title IX led to the greatest expansion in female sports, the post-Title IX generation of women enjoyed more education, employment and higher wages than their pre-Title IX forebears. They were also more likely to enter previously male-dominated professions such as law, accounting and even sports.

This chart shows the increase in women’s participation in sports since the law was passed:

Fears that the law would hurt men, meanwhile, have turned out to be unwarranted. But still, women today earn only 77 cents for every dollar earned by men, a disparity that exists even in highly-paid, highly-educated professions. On average, women hit their peak wages at the age of 39, while men see their pay continue to rise for another decade.

Despite this persistent problem, Senate Republicans filibustered the Paycheck Fairness Act earlier this month, which would have strengthened important protections for women against pay discrimination.