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'If You Let Me Play': The Effects of Participation in High School Athletics on Students' Educational and Labor Market Success

Deborah Anderson

University of Arizona - College of Education

January 2001

The recent NIKE advertisement titled "If You Let Me Play," claims many benefits for girls who play sports. In contrast, there exists a hypothesis that today's society overemphasizes the role of sports to the detriment of some students, in particular inner-city minority males. This paper examines the effects of participating in high school athletics on students' educational and labor market success in order to test these two theories.

I make three contributions to the literature. First, I allow the athletics effect to vary across specific team and individual sports. Second, I use instrumental variables estimation to control for self-selection into sports. Finally, I use measures of peer involvement in sports, similar to other work on neighborhood effects, to instrument each individual student's athlete status.

Using nationally representative samples from High School and Beyond and the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988, OLS results show that athletics contributes positively to educational and labor market success for all students except minority females. Controlling for the endogeneity of athletic participation, however, I find significant positive effects only for white students with respect to educational outcomes. This suggests that some of the seemingly beneficial effect of sports reflects underlying differences between athletes and non-athletes.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 42

Keywords: athletics, sports, gender, race, neighborhood effects

JEL Classification: I2, J1, J24

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Date posted: February 6, 2001  

Suggested Citation

Anderson, Deborah, 'If You Let Me Play': The Effects of Participation in High School Athletics on Students' Educational and Labor Market Success (January 2001). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=258751 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.258751

Contact Information

Deborah Anderson (Contact Author)
University of Arizona - College of Education ( email )
P.O. Box 210069
Tucson, AZ 85721-0069
United States
520-626-4861 (Phone)
520-626-6005 (Fax)
Feedback to SSRN

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