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What Goes into a Medal: Women's Inclusion and Success at the Olympic Games

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  • Marcus Noland

    () (Peterson Institute for International Economics)

  • Kevin Stahler

    () (Peterson Institute for International Economics)

Abstract

This paper examines determinants of women's participation and performance in the Olympics. Female inclusion and success are not merely functions of size, wealth, and host advantage, but a more complex process involving the socioeconomic status of women and, more weakly, broad societal attitudes on gender issues. Female labor force participation and educational attainment in particular are tightly correlated with both participation and outcomes, even controlling for per capita income. Female educational attainment is strongly correlated with both the breadth of participation across sporting events and success in those events. Host countries and socialist states also are associated with unusually high levels of participation and medaling by female athletes. Medal performance is affected by large-scale boycotts. Opening competition to professionals may have leveled the playing field for poorer countries. But the historical record for women's medal achievement is utterly distorted by the doping program in the former East Germany, which specifically targeted women. At its peak in the 1970s and 1980s, the program was responsible for 17 percent of the medals awarded to women, equivalent to the medal hauls of the Soviet or American team in 1972, the last Olympics not marred by widespread abuse of performance-enhancing drugs.

Suggested Citation

  • Marcus Noland & Kevin Stahler, 2014. "What Goes into a Medal: Women's Inclusion and Success at the Olympic Games," Working Paper Series WP14-7, Peterson Institute for International Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:iie:wpaper:wp14-7
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    5. Barro, Robert J. & Lee, Jong Wha, 2013. "A new data set of educational attainment in the world, 1950–2010," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, pages 184-198.
    6. Wladimir Andreff, 2013. "Economic development as major determinant of Olympic medal wins: predicting performances of Russian and Chinese teams at Sochi Games," International Journal of Economic Policy in Emerging Economies, Inderscience Enterprises Ltd, vol. 6(4), pages 314-340.
    7. Hon-Kwong Lui & Wing Suen, 2008. "Men, Money, And Medals: An Econometric Analysis Of The Olympic Games," Pacific Economic Review, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 13(1), pages 1-16, February.
    8. Daniel K. N. Johnson & Ayfer Ali, 2004. "A Tale of Two Seasons: Participation and Medal Counts at the Summer and Winter Olympic Games," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 85(4), pages 974-993.
    9. Andrew B. Bernard & Meghan R. Busse, 2004. "Who Wins the Olympic Games: Economic Resources and Medal Totals," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 86(1), pages 413-417, February.
    10. Wladimir Andreff, 2013. "Economic development as major determinant of Olympic medal wins: predicting performances of Russian and Chinese teams at Sochi Games," Université Paris1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Post-Print and Working Papers) halshs-00971788, HAL.
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    Cited by:

    1. Marcus Noland & Kevin Stahler, 2016. "Asian Participation and Performance at the Olympic Games," Asian Economic Policy Review, Japan Center for Economic Research, vol. 11(1), pages 70-90, January.
    2. Barbara Kotschwar & Tyler Moran, 2015. "Pitching a Level Playing Field: Women and Leadership in Sports," Policy Briefs PB15-22, Peterson Institute for International Economics.
    3. Marcus Noland, 2016. "Russian Doping in Sports," Working Paper Series WP16-4, Peterson Institute for International Economics.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    women; gender; sports; Olympics;

    JEL classification:

    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • L83 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Sports; Gambling; Restaurants; Recreation; Tourism
    • F53 - International Economics - - International Relations, National Security, and International Political Economy - - - International Agreements and Observance; International Organizations
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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