An Analysis of the Impact of Interscholastic Athletics on the Delinquency of High School Girls

Stephen V. Gies, The American University
Mary Elizabeth LaBella

Manyu contemporary crime prevention programs such as youth athletic leagues are predicated on the hypothesis that sports can reduce the probability of delinquent behavior either through character development or as an informal social control by increasing the opportunity costs of delinquency. Interscholastic athletic programs are also predicated on similar assumptions. Many of these programs, however, are clearly designed for boys. Do they have similar effects on girls? It is incumbent upon public policy analysts to determine the effectiveness of such programs for girls. Previous studies generally find a negative association between athletics and delinquency utilizing a cross-sectional research design. however, the observed relationship could be spurious if antecedent variables affect both athletic participation and delinquency. This paper utilizes panel data from the National Education Longitudinal Study (NELS) to examine the causal relationship berween female athletic participation and delinquency. The NELS data permits separate estimates of factors that predict participation in various high school sports from estimates of the effect of that participation on delinquency. An instrumental variable approach is used to disentangle the self-selection effect from the subsequent effect of athletic participation on delinquency. Results are presented on the impact of participation in particular sports on delinquency.

(Return to Program Resources)

Updated 05/20/2006