Work and Play: International Evidence of Gender Equality in Employment and Sports
This paper addresses the question of whether societies that afford economic opportunity to women offer other opportunities as well. The analysis in this paper shows that the performance of a country's women in international athletic competition reflects the degree of their relative participation in that country's labor market. There is a significant positive relationship across countries between a high ratio of the labor force participation rate of women to the labor force participation rate of men and the number and type of medals won by a country's women in the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympics. Teams representing countries with high relative labor force participation rates also were both more likely to qualify for the 1999 Women's Soccer World Cup and to do well in that competition. This effect of relative labor force participation rates on athletic success is found while controlling for a nation's income per capita, population, men's performance in related sporting events, rate of participation of women in government, and fertility rate. These results suggest that the participation of women in a country's labor force is an important reflection of their opportunities in other areas as well.