Men, women and sports by the numbers

The NCAA began sponsoring women's championships in 1981-82. The following data (from the NCAA's sport sponsorship and participation report) We see stagnant growth through the 1980s, as Title IX was in abeyance for part of that time and colleges were still figuring out what it meant for them. Cultural change and litigation spurred significant growth in the 1990s. That growth appears to continue through the 2000s...

However, some of that growth was due to growth in the NCAA itself, through adding members from the NAIA and junior college ranks. As such, another way to look at it is by looking at the relative proportions of male and female athletes:

Representation of male and female college athletes


What this means is that while women grew as an overall proportion of college athletes through about 2000, their representation has stabilized for the past decade at 43% of the athlete population, despite the fact that women now represent about 57% of the undergraduate student population throughout the country:

Gender breakdown of undergraduate enrollment at postsecondary institutions (selected years)

Source: U.S. Department of Education, Digest of Education Statistics

We see a similar trend at the high school level, despite the fact that the high school population is almost always 50/50:

Growth in female AND male participation in high school sports

SOURCE: National Federation of State High School Associations

Gender breakdown of high school sources


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