This paper examines why African Americans and Whites participate in different high school sports at different rates. Considered are explanations based on family, neighborhood, and school inequality as well as explanations stemming from two race-relations theories (competition theory and the cultural division of labor perspective) that see racial differences in culture as a product of racialized norms that vary in strength across settings. Data from the NELS and the 1990 Census are analyzed by mixing multinomial logistic regression with multilevel models. Results indicate that racial differences in sports that Whites play more are largely the result of SES and neighborhood inequality. Differences in sports Blacks play more have strong race effects. Moreover, racial differences are larger in schools with proportionately more Blacks and in schools with more racial hierarchy, providing partial support for both race-relations theories.
The author is with the Sociology-Anthropology Department, University of Wisconsin-Parkside, Kenosha, WI.