Equal play for girls and women

The US Department of Education has repealed a 2005 Bush-era policy that made it easy for high schools and colleges to avoid compliance with a federal law mandating equal opportunities for female students in schools and colleges that receive federal aid, specifically in terms of athletics.

One way to comply with Title IX was to use a survey to assess the interest and ability of girls and women to participate in athletics. Schools could use their survey results to document a lack of interest or ability and, just like that, they were off the hook for another year.

An event at the George Washington University today, April 20, marked not just Equal Pay Day but also the “Title IX Announcement” with Vice President Joe Biden, Jr., Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, and Joy Cheek, Duke University basketball player and former intern in Vice President Biden’s Office.

Secretary Duncan mentioned a recent cross-state analysis by Betsey Stevenson of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania which shows several positive effects of girls’ participation in high school athletics: being an athlete is associated with about one more year of schooling, higher labor force participation rates, higher earnings, and higher participation in male-dominate jobs and mixed-gender jobs compared to female-dominated jobs. These findings about the effects of athletic participation hold true in spite of the potential bias created by self-selection into athletics.

Vice President Biden delivered an impassioned, off-the-prompter speech in which he noted that while statistics are important, they don’t tell the whole story. Making Title IX  “as strong as it can possibly be is the right thing to do.” In spite of the great progress that has been made since 1972, “we have a long way to go” to “take away every barrier that exists.” The bottom line is: “empower, empower, empower women to take control of their own lives.”

SOURCE: Betsey Stevenson, Beyond the Classroom: Using Title IX to Measure the Return to High School Sports. The Review of Economics and Statistics May 2010, 92(2):284-301.

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