Effects of Title Ix and Sports Participation on Girls’ Physical Activity and Weight

Topics: Obesity, Body mass index, Title IX Pages: 52 (13888 words) Published: September 23, 2008

Robert Kaestner

This research was partially supported by grants from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and from the Chicago Center for Excellence in Health Promotion Economics of the University of Chicago and University of Illinois at Chicago. The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.

©2006 by Robert Kaestner and Xin Xu. All rights reserved. Short sections of text, not to exceed two paragraphs, may be quoted without explicit permission provided that full credit, including © notice, is given to the source.

Effects of Title IX and Sports Participation on Girls’ Physical Activity and Weight Robert Kaestner and Xin Xu
NBER Working Paper No. 12113
March 2006, Revised June 2006
JEL No. I12, I18


In this study, we examined the association between girls’ participation in high school sports and the physical activity, weight, body mass and body composition of adolescent females during the 1970s when girls’ sports participation was dramatically increasing as a result of Title IX. We found that increases in girls’ participation in high school sports, a proxy for expanded athletic opportunities for adolescent females, were associated with an increase in physical activity and an improvement in weight and body mass among girls. In contrast, adolescent boys experienced a decline in physical activity and an increase in weight and body mass during the period when girls’ athletic opportunities were expanding. Taken together, these results strongly suggest that Title IX and the increase in athletic opportunities among adolescent females it engendered had a beneficial effect on the health of adolescent girls.

Robert Kaestner
Department of Economics
Institute of Government and Public Affairs
University of Illinois at Chicago
815 West Van Buren Street, Suite 525
Chicago, IL 60607
and NBER


Xin Xu
Graduate College (MC 192)
601 South Morgan
Room 606 University Hall
Chicago, IL 60607-7106



The 1996 Surgeon General’s Report on Physical Activity and Health (USDHHS 1996) is an exhaustive review of the effects of physical activity on health. It concludes that there is compelling evidence that people of all ages and of both genders benefit from physical activity, and it recommends 30 minutes of regular physical activity (e.g., brisk walking, social dancing, volleyball) on most days for both children and adults. A more recent study from the Institute of Medicine (2002) goes even further, recommending an hour of physical activity per day.

The Surgeon General’s study also reports the following: that most Americans are not regularly physically active; that 25% of American adults are not active at all; and that half of American youths between the ages of 12 and 21 are not vigorously active on a regular basis. Notably, at all ages, women are less active than men. The relatively high rate of physical inactivity among Americans is an important social problem. Indeed, physical activity is one of the major public health concerns listed in the Healthy People 2010 (USDHHS 2000) report, which has an objective to increase physical activity, and which identifies women as a group of particular concern.

To increase physical activity of children and adults, the 1996 Surgeon General’s report recommends the expansion of school-based interventions.
“School-based interventions for youth are particularly promising, not only for their potential scope—almost all young people between the ages of 6 and 16 years attend school—but also for their potential impact. Nearly half of young people 12 to 21 years of age are not vigorously active; moreover, physical activity declines during adolescence. Childhood and adolescence may...
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