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Jennifer Pharr and Nancy L. Lough


Studies have shown participation in sport is lower among girls than boys, decreases as students matriculate through high school, is lowest among Black and Hispanic girls and has a positive relationship with SES. With sport recognized as a contributor to physical activity and health in adolescents, consideration of diminishing rates of participation appears warranted. The purpose of this study was to identify patterns related to differences in self-reported sport participation between genders, ethnic groups, grades and SES.


This study was a cross-sectional, secondary analysis of data collected for a sport interest survey. All students in grades 8–11 attending middle and high schools were provided an opportunity to participate in the survey. Data from 49,832 students were analyzed.


Among the participants, Black girls participated more and White girls participated less than expected. Black boys participated more while White and Asian boys participated less than expected. Reported sport participation was high compared with national data when analyzed by gender and ethnic group. Sport participation was higher in low SES schools compared with high SES schools.


The importance of sport as a source of physical activity in underserved groups is significant.