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Deep Into Sports: Girls vs Boys = City vs Suburbs?

a blogumn by Nate Barlow

A couple weeks ago the New York Times ran an article about the disparity between boys and girls’ sports.

Schools have made great strides towards scholastic athletic equality since the passage of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.  Although Title IX made no specific reference to athletics and in fact covers any school program, it’s most prominent effect has been to equalize expenditures on boys’ and girls’ athletics for any institution receiving federal funding.  Even beyond the direct dollars spent, Title IX has had a profound on girls’ sports participation.  Witness the rise of the WNBA and of the Women’s Final Four as a televised event.  They may not draw the fans and advertising dollars of the men, but twenty years ago their success would have been unfathomable.

According to the Times article, “50 percent of girls in the suburbs described themselves as ‘moderately involved’ athletes,” compared to 54 percent of boys.  Those are nearly even numbers.

In that statement, however, lies the rub: “in the suburbs”.  The point of the Times article is that in urban areas, female athletic participation suffers greatly; only 36 percent of girls, compared to 56% of boys, in the city consider themselves “moderately involved” in sports.

Before questioning the efficacy of Title IX in the inner city, it should be noted that funding for athletics–and other school programs–in poor urban areas is terrible for both boys and girls.

The issue is a cultural one.  A family needs a babysitter but can’t afford one?  The sister is pressed into service, not the brother.  For many children of immigrant families, the traditional divisions between boys and girls’ activities that most Americans no longer consider valid are still in place.  And in those cases where local outside organizations (not beholden to Title IX) are able and willing to close the funding gap for school teams, they tend to be associations those with a male focus.  Thus the boys’ team receive the extra money they need.  The girls, many of whom would like to play (at least the ones profiled in the article), are left holding the short end of the stick.

The government can’t legislate cultural norms the same way it did for school spending with Title IX, so what can be done to equalize the playing field?  Read the Times article.  It shows just how far we’ve come, and just how far we need to go.

Keep up with the world of sports at Nate’s regular blog, Deep Into Sports