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Student Well-Being

Analysis Highlights State-by-State Gender Gaps in High School Sports

By Bryan Toporek — June 23, 2015 1 min read
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The National Women’s Law Center released an analysis Tuesday detailing the gender equity gaps that exist in high school sports on a state-by-state basis.

Of the 16,000-plus high schools examined—using data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Civil Rights Data Collection for the 2011-12 school year—nearly 4,500 had what the center deemed “large” gender equity gaps. To qualify as a large gap, there must be a difference of 10 or more percentage points between the percentage of spots allocated to girls on sports teams and the percentage of girls in a school’s student body. (For instance: If a school’s student body is comprised of 50 percent girls, yet only 35 percent of the schools’ athletes are girls, that would represent a 15-percentage-point gap.)

One way for schools to comply with Title IX, the federal law that prohibits gender-based discrimination in federally financed education programs and activities, is by proving that their proportion of female students is roughly equal to their proportion of female student-athletes. If a school has a participation gap of 10 or more percentage points, the National Women’s Law Center surmises, it is “not likely complying with the law.”

According to the organization’s state rankings, Vermont leads the way in terms of the fewest number of high schools with large gender equity gaps in sports (1.9 percent). Only six states—Vermont, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and New Hampshire—have fewer than 10 percent of high schools with such gaps.

On the other end of the spectrum, roughly two-thirds of all high schools in Georgia have large gender equity gaps in sports (66.3 percent), and the District of Columbia isn’t far behind (62.1 percent). Six states and D.C. have large gender equity gaps in at least half of their high schools, according to the NWLC’s analysis, while 30 states and D.C. have such gaps in at least 20 percent of their high schools.

Here’s a state-by-state look at the gender equity gaps that exist in high school sports, courtesy of the organization:

The NWLC posted this analysis in conjunction with the 43rd anniversary of the passage of Title IX, which then-President Richard Nixon signed into law on June 23, 1972. For more information about Title IX, check out this Education Week timeline and collection of stories published for the law’s 40th anniversary a few years back.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.