Equity & Diversity

Gender Gap Grows in High School Sports, Report Says

By Bryan Toporek — October 10, 2012 2 min read
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High school boys and girls both made gains in the number of athletic opportunities made available to them over this past decade, but boys saw a larger share of those gains, according to a new report by the Sport, Healthy, Activity Research and Policy Center for Women and Girls (SHARP Center).

“The Decade of Decline: Gender Equity in High School Sports” uses data from both the U.S. Department of Education’s office for civil rights (OCR) and the National Center on Education Statistics to determine how high school girls’ athletic opportunities compared with boys’ from the 1999-2000 school year through the 2009-10 school year.

Given this past summer’s 40th anniversary of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits gender discrimination in any federally financed education program or activity, the timing of the report couldn’t be much more perfect.

As you might expect, there’s both good news and bad news to be taken from it.

On the bright side, athletic opportunities expanded for high-school-aged females over that time span. Schools went from offering 32 athletic opportunities per 100 girls in the 1999-2000 school year to offering 41 athletic opportunities per 100 girls in the 2009-10 school year, the report found.

On the other hand, boys’ athletic opportunities only expanded further. Schools offered 43 athletic opportunities for every 100 boys in the 1999-2000 school year, and that number rose to 53 athletic opportunities per 100 boys by the 2009-10 school year.

By 2009-10, boys still received disproportionately more athletic opportunities than girls in all community settings—urban, suburban, town, and rural communities—according to the report. All community settings increased the number of athletic opportunities over the course of the decade, though.

Data from the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) only supports the report’s assertions. According to the organization’s High School Athletics Participation Survey, a total of 3,861,749 boys and 2,673,874 girls participated in high school sports in the 1999-2000 school year, while those numbers increased to 4,455,740 boys and 3,172,637 girls by 2009-10.

Over that 10-year span, an additional 593,991 boys began playing high school sports, while females trailed by roughly 100,000, with only 496,763 more females participating.

It’s worth noting, however, that according to the NFHS’ most recent High School Athletics Participation Survey, boys’ participation figures in the 2011-12 school year actually

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