This study proposed and tested a theoretical explanation of how social class background influences sport participation. Two theoretical constructs of social class were operationalized within the context of sport participation and tested to determine how well they explained the social class-sport participation link: life chances/economic opportunity set (the distribution of material goods and services), and life-styles/social psychological opportunity set (values, beliefs, and practices). Life chances consisted of the availability and usage of sport equipment, facilities or club memberships, and instruction. Life-styles consisted of selected parental achievement and gender role expectations that encourage, fail to encourage, or discourage sport participation. Social class background was determined by father’s occupation as ranked in the Duncan Socioeconomic Index. A self-administered questionnaire was distributed to a stratified random sample of high school students, with some questionnaires eliminated to control for cultural and/or racial differences and variation in parental influence. The construct validity of the instrument was supported by factor analytic results. The test-retest reliability of the questionnaire was r = .956. Partial correlation analyses revealed that while individual life chances/economic opportunity set variables explained a greater portion of the relationship between sport participation and social class background than did the individual variables of life-styles/social psychological opportunity set, a combination of all three economic opportunity set variables and two social-psychological opportunity set variables accounted for more than 50% of the relationship between sport and class.
Direct all correspondence to Cynthia A. Hasbrook, Department of Human Kinetics, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI 53201.