Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


The role of gender empowerment in Olympic success


Economics Department


Seidman College of Business

Date Range





We provide the first test of the hypothesis that womens empowerment correlates with womens international athletic success. Specifically, we investigate the relationship between nation-level gender equality (measured using the Gender Inequality Index) and success of both men and women in elite international athletic competition (both Olympic participation and medal counts). We analyze results from the Summer Olympic Games from 1996-2012 using Panel Tobit regression with random effects. The data confirmation that greater gender equality is consistently and significantly associated with both measures of Olympic success, even after controlling for nation-level characteristics including population, GDP, host nation status, and other previously investigated predictors of Olympic success. This relationship persists whether participants and medals are measured in absolute numbers, shares of the total, percent within each country, or in medals won per athlete. While women experience larger negative effects from gender inequality, higher levels of inequality are often associated with less success for both male and female athletes. These results are important because they provide the first direct evidence for the long-standing claim that girls and womens international athletic achievement is linked to womens empowerment.

Conference Name

50th Annual Meeting of the MVEA

Conference Location

Kansas City, MO

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