Between the school year of 1971-1792 and 1977-1978, the participation rates for girls in sports increased 600% from 29,015 to 2,083,040. Notably, this increase occurred in coincidence with the passage of Title IX in 1972. Although most would say that this increase in girls’ physical activity would help physical fitness and body composition, little research exists. Robert Kaestner and Xin Ku remedy the problem by examining the impact of the increase of participation in sports on body composition of adolescent females during the 1970s. Incorporating data from numerous sources, Kaestner and Ku find that an increase in physical activity significantly improves the body composition of girls.
“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” This opened many opportunities for girls in school based and community based sports programs as school system did feared losing funding. The increase of girls’ participation increased steadily up until 1978, the year compliance was mandated. This growth in opportunities meant girls would have been more likely to be active than before.
To calculate the effect of athletic opportunities, Kaestner and Ku implement a wide variety of information sources to compile the statistics needed. The authors use participation in sports as a proxy for changes in girls’ athletic opportunities. Coming from National Federation of State High School Associations, the statistics include data on nation wide girls’ participation from 71, 73, 75,77 and 78. Information on body composition facts originate from the first and second National Health and Nutritional Examination Surveys (NHANESI and II). Taken between 1971 and 1980, the survey includes data on weight, body mass index(BMI), and skinfold in different body areas (three different measures of body composition) of 12-17 year olds. NHANES also includes personal and socio-economic information on recreational activity, age, race, gender, years of schooling and family income of the child and the household leader.
The authors main evidences is derived from a comparison of girls’ participation to boys. As Title IX had not yet included the (in)famous section on the same number of girls and boys in the sports program (came in 1979), the authors feel using a comparison group that did not change (boys) would help distinguish the impact of Title IX and girls participation from omitted variables such as changing opinions on body image. The unaffected group (boys), would be subject to similar omitted variables, but not Title IX.
The results suggest that girls’ participation in sports did increase body composition. Between 1971 and 1978, girls’ participation increased 20 percentage points. This expansion in participation is associated with many measures of better body composition.
All of these indicate a better body composition and physical fitness of adolescent girls. The participation increase is also associated with a 24% increase in the probability of girls participating in “much” exercise during their recreational activities.
Kaestner and Ku check the robustness of the findings with two addition tests. Both tests look at whether the findings could be false. The first test examines whether height and girls’ participation are correlated, as they shouldn’t be. They are not correlated. The authors then check to see the impact on younger girls, as the effect should be smaller because Title IX target high school age girls. Tests show that this is indeed true, showing the results are consistent through different age groups.
Having benefited from Title IX, I can attest to the help of sports participation in better body composition. Yet, the evidence in this paper was not convincing. The authors performed two tests, one was filled with problems, and the other showed nothing. The first was the comparison with boys. This comparison hinged on the assumption that Title IX did not affect boys’ participation. However, the results from that test showed increased girls’ participation was linked with a decrease in boys’ participation and body composition. This evidence came after the authors explained other evidence showed boys weren’t affected. The contradicting facts confused me. The fact that the data the authors incorporated showed a change in boys’ participation was hurtful to the argument.
The second test I did include in the summary because it added nothing to support the authors’ thesis, and in my opinion hurt it. Why include a test that is inconclusive? It made me believe the data didn’t give good support to the hypothesis.
I believe Title IX made a difference in girls’ body composition and ideals of what a healthy living is, but this research did not show me this.