Happy 40th Anniversary Title IX
Tomorrow marks the 40th anniversary of the enactment of Title IX, the federal civil rights law that prohibits sex discrimination in education. While the legislation's widest and most well-known impact has been expanding girls' and women's sports in high school and college, the law has engendered many more changes in the nation's education system.
According to the National Women's Law Center, before the passage of Title IX, it was common for schools to discourage young women from studying math or science, and to encourage them to focus on domestic skills, like cooking, sewing and child rearing. There were few opportunities for girls to play sports or participate in competitive school activities. And if a high school student became pregnant, there was a strong likelihood that she would be kicked out of school.
Title IX ensures that all schools that receive federal funding provide equal opportunities to male and female students - both in the classroom and on the athletic field. This includes elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, and all levels of higher education, and prohibits sex discrimination against staff members as well as students. As a result, women and girls have greater opportunities to participate in school sports, are protected from sexual harassment, cannot be discriminated against because of pregnancy, and receive the same career and technical education as their male counterparts.
These expanded opportunities have created significant economic effects. For example, according to Forbes, "economists have long observed that participation in sports at a young age correlates to higher wages, greater educational attainment and overall professional success in adult life." One study looked at economic gains made in the years after Title IX by women, comparing states with high levels of enforcement to those with low enforcement of the law. Using data on students who attended high school just before and after the passage of the law, the study found:
- Title IX is associated with a 3% rise in women’s college attendance, and a 2 percentage point rise in the probability of getting a four-year degree.
- Title IX is associated with a 2% increase in women’s employment.
- Title IX is associated with a 1.5% increase in the numbers of women in male-dominated fields.
- Title IX is associated with a 1.3% increase in women’s wages in states with high enforcement, though some of this may be the result of greater female employment.
Critically, these gains have not come at the expense of boys' educational and economic attainment. Title IX has not only expanded women's opportunities, but it has actually narrowed the achievement gap between women and men.