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Handbook on the Economics of Women in Sports

Handbook on the Economics of Women in Sports

Elgar original reference

Edited by Eva Marikova Leeds and Michael A. Leeds

Women’s sports have received much less attention from economists than from other social scientists. This Handbook fills that gap with a comprehensive economic analysis of women’s sports. It also analyzes how the behavior and treatment of female athletes reflect broad economic forces.

Chapter 12: Gender differences in competitive balance in intercollegiate basketball

Jaret Treber, Rachel Levy and Victor A. Matheson

Subjects: economics and finance, sports


Over the 2008–09 and 2009–10 seasons, the University of Connecticut (UConn) women’s basketball team went 78–0 and captured two National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championships. The UConn Huskies exhibited unprecedented dominance, winning every game but one by at least 10 points, with an average margin of victory of more than 30 points, assuring themselves of a place in the pantheon of team sports. Their dominance also spawned debate about their impact on women’s college basketball. Some believe that UConn’s streak attracted more fans to women’s college basketball, while others argue that fan interest waned as UConn’s run greatly diminished the drama associated with the chase for a national championship. Attendance data provide limited insight. During the 2008–09 and 2009–10 seasons, average attendance at NCAA Division I women’s basketball games fell by 1.7 and 1.6 percent from the previous year, suggesting that UConn’s reign may have adversely affected interest in the game. Such a conclusion is somewhat contradicted by the fact that these two seasons registered the third-and fourth-highest per game attendance since the inception of the women’s NCAA tournament in 1982. The underlying issue in this debate is a fundamental topic in sports – the relationship between relative team quality and fan demand.

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