Order Code RS20710
Updated March 4, 2003
CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
Title IX and Sex Discrimination in Education:
Gary L. Galemore
Analyst in American National Government
Government and Finance Division
Although Title IX has been only partially successful in eliminating sex
discrimination in education, the effects of this legislation have been far-reaching.
Despite problems with enforcement of the statute, the women and girls of today tend to
be better educated and have more opportunities than those of previous generations.
Major attention at present centers on funding and support for equal opportunities in
athletics, although equality in the classroom, a more complex problem, may affect more
students in terms of future opportunities and earning power. The Commission on
Opportunity in Athletics has just released their recommendations to reform the
application of Title IX to sports to the Secretary of Education. The 108th Congress may
wish to review any changes to Title IX that may result from these recommendations. An
electronic version of the Commission’s final report can be found at
This report provides an overview of Title IX of the Education Amendments of
1972, and the various aspects of education affected by this law. This report will be
updated as events warrant. For related reading, see CRS Report RS20460, Title IX and
Gender Bias in Sports: Frequently Asked Questions, and CRS Report RL31709, Title
IX, Sex Discrimination, and Intercollegiate Athletics: A Legal Overview.
Title IX was enacted on June 23, 1972, as part of a general education bill, the
Education Amendments of 1972.1 It prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in
federally assisted education programs or activities. The word “programs” under Title IX
refers to all of the activities of any educational institution receiving federal funding for
any part of its program, a point clarified by Congress under the Civil Rights Restoration
Act of 1988.2 Numerous school activities fall under the umbrella of Title IX. It applies
to admissions, recruitment, financial aid, academic programs, student treatment and
services, counseling and guidance, discipline, classroom assignment, grading, vocational
PL. 92-318; 86 Stat. 373, 1972: 42 U.S.C. 906a.
PL. 100-259; 102 Stat. 28, 1988: 20 U.S.C. 1681 et seq.
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
education, recreation, physical education, housing, employment, and athletics. An
educational institution is defined as any “public or private pre-school, elementary or
secondary school or any institution of vocational, professional or higher education.”
Although Title IX has been on the statute books for over 30 years, the law is considered
by many to be only a partial success. For persons directly affected by Title IX, the law
remains confusing and almost always controversial. To this day, the public perception of
the intended purpose and major impact of Title IX is in its application to women’s
athletics, yet the statute applies to every area of sex-based discrimination in a educational
Enforcement and administration of Title IX is primarily the responsibility of the
Office of Civil Rights (OCR) at the Department of Education (DOE). Administrative
complaints concerning possible Title IX violations may be filed with this office. A
complaint to the Office of Civil Rights is not a lawsuit. A complaint can be filed by
anyone: a parent, a student athlete, a team, or even a concerned third party. The OCR does
not file lawsuits on behalf of persons or groups injured by alleged discrimination. It can,
but rarely does, seek to have federal financial assistance withheld from educational
institutions not in compliance with Title IX. The OCR’s first choice of action is to
mediate a solution to a discrimination claim that satisfies the law as well as both the
alleged victim and the school. A commonly expressed misunderstanding about the OCR
is that it directly disperses federal funds to schools to implement Title IX or conduct
sports programs, and that this money can be withdrawn. The OCR neither has
appropriated federal funds available to disperse for sports programs, nor is the agency
authorized to do so by law. Federal financial assistance that can be withheld can take
many forms. It can be defined as federal grants or loans to educational institutions for
acquisitions, construction, renovations, restorations, or repairs of buildings and facilities.
Federal assistance can also take the form of scholarships, loans, grants, wages, or other
funding extended to a school directly or through students at the school. In addition, it can
take the form of federal surplus property, either donated or sold to a school, or services
provided by federal personnel. Contracts, agreements, or other arrangements between
education institutions or individuals associated with educational institutions and federal
agencies, such as defense-related research conducted by an educational institution for the
Department of the Army, can also be regarded as federal financial assistance for the
purposes of Title IX. An educational institution may lose its federal financial assistance
if it is found to be in non-compliance with Title IX.
Although the federal government is responsible for Title IX enforcement and may
terminate funding on the basis of sex bias, no educational institutions have lost funding
for this reason. Thus far in Title IX’s 30-year history, pressure for stronger enforcement
has come largely as a result of court suits initiated by women and women’s groups, rather
Several agencies and activities are exempt from Title IX, including educational institutions
operated or controlled by religious organizations, if application of Title IX would be inconsistent
with the religious tenets of those organizations. Title IX is not applicable to federal military and
merchant marine academies. Social fraternities and sororities whose members are primarily
students at institutions of higher education are exempt from Title IX. So are voluntary youth
organizations which are tax-exempt or whose membership is traditionally limited to one sex.
These organizations include groups such as the Boy Scouts of America, the Girls Scouts of
America, the Young Men’s Christian Association, and the Camp Fire Girls.
than through agency action. In 1992, the Supreme Court ruling in Franklin v. Gwinnett
County allowed for monetary awards against educational institutions found to be
intentionally discriminating. 4
Title IX grew out of the women’s civil rights movement of the late 1960s and
early1970s. In that period, Congress began to focus attention on systemic educational
barriers to women and girls, in part because of the associated limitation on women’s
employment opportunities, which led to lower lifetime earnings and fewer opportunities
generally.5 This problem had serious implications, not only for women themselves, but
also for their ability to contribute to their families, to society, and to the national
economy. Hearings in June and July of 1970, prior to passage of Title IX, documented
what supporters perceived as pervasive discrimination and sex stereotyping in the
treatment of males and females in educational institutions. These hearings and other
investigations gave impetus to the growing effort to make taxpayer funded educational
programs more equitable.6
Why Congress Enacted Title IX
The testimony before congressional committees prior to passage of Title IX in 1970
documented examples of differential treatment of males and females.7 Examples from
the testimony included the following:
Some publicly-funded universities did not admit women to undergraduate
programs, had higher admissions standards for women than men, or had
imposed sex-based quotas.
Certain academic programs and courses within publicly-funded
educational institutions, such as nursing schools, would not admit
Equally qualified women were found to be less likely to receive financial
aid or to receive smaller amounts than their male counterparts, and
married women often were excluded from receiving awards of financial
503 U.S. 60 (1992).
Since the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education (347 U.S. 583 ), the
relationship between equality in education and in society has been the object of public concern.
In fact, Title IX is based on Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (P.L. 88-352, 78 Stat. 252),
which prohibits discrimination of the basis of race, color, or national origin in federally assisted
programs, except that Title IX does not exclude employment from coverage of the statute.
U.S. Congress, House Special Subcommittee on Education, Discrimination Against Women,
hearings on Sec. 805 of H.R. 16098, 91st Cong., 2nd sess., 1970 (Washington: GPO, 1970).
Some school-sponsored activities, such as honor societies, were reserved
for male students only, and women’s athletics were commonly funded at
levels far below parallel programs for men.
Women frequently were discouraged from applying to law and medical
schools or majoring in hard sciences, such as physics or engineering.
Women who sought employment at educational institutions with
equivalent training and experience to that of male applicants were often
hired at lower salaries than their male counterparts and were less likely
to be promoted to principal, department head, dean, or university
In high school and college athletics, few women were allowed to coach
athletics or hold administrative positions in athletic departments. In
1971, approximately 295,000 girls participated in high school sports, and
only about 25,000 played sports at the college level.
Changes Attributed to Title IX in Increasing
Equal Educational Opportunity
Proponents of Title IX contend that a more equal, more educated, and more
prosperous nation has resulted because of the far-reaching effects of this legislation.
While no definitive study has been made of the full impact of Title IX, there are a number
of indicators of substantial change. For example:
In colleges and universities, women now constitute majorities of college
enrollment and completion of a degree, and are the majority of recipients
of master’s degrees. In 1972, only 44% of bachelor degrees were
earned by women, 56% in 2000. During this same period the number of
medical degrees awarded women grew from 9% in 1972 to 43% in 2000.
There are more female faculty members at the college level now than in
1972, with women in 1998-1999 constituting about 37% of faculty
members at colleges and universities. In 1970, women constituted 8.7%
of full professors, 15.1% of associate professors, 19.4% of assistant
professors, and 32.5% of instructors. In 1998-1999, women constituted
20.8% of full professors, 35.8% of associate professors, 45% of assistant
professors, and 50.6% of instructors.
In athletics, an area that has received the largest share of media and
public attention, women’s participation in sports has increased markedly
since 1971, when only 295,000 women participated in high school varsity
sports and only 30,000 in college sports. By 2001, around 2.8 million
girls participated in high school sports and 163,000 in college sports.
Since 1981-1982, the number of women’s teams at colleges has grown
from about 5,695 to 9,479 in 1988-1999, while men’s team have grown
in number from about 9,113 in 1981-1982 to 9,149 in 1988-1999.
Commission on Opportunities in Athletics
On June 27, 2002, Rod Paige, Secretary of Education, established the Commission
on Opportunity in Athletics. The Commission was tasked with collecting information and
analyzing issues pertaining to the application of current federal standards for measuring
equal opportunity for male and female participation in athletics at high schools and
colleges under Title IX. The Commission held six public meetings at locations around
the country between July 2002 and January 2003. The Commission forwarded its 23
recommendations to the Secretary at the end of February 2003. For an electronic version
of the full report, see [http://www.ed.gov/about/bdscomm/list/athletics/index.html]. The
Secretary is not required to act on any of the recommendations of the Commission nor is
there a time limit for his actions, if any are taken. It should be noted that the Secretary
could simply revise or change the compliance requirements issued by the Office of Civil
Rights at the Department of Education, which would not require legislative action on the
part of Congress. The 108th Congress may wish to review any action taken by the
Secretary which might weaken enforcement or application of this law.
One of the reasons for the seemingly disproportionate attention paid to women’s
athletics under Title IX relates in no small part to persistent differences in funding support
for men’s and women’s sports programs (a more easily measured indicator than classroom
inequities). Although women represent the majority of total students in undergraduate
college programs and nearly 43% of all athletes, a 2002 gender-equity study by the
National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)8 found that spending on a Division I
male athlete, on average was $3,786, while spending on a female athlete was $2,983.
Although the cost of football accounts for a substantial portion of this financial
disparity, and even though some specific universities and colleges reportedly are doing
a good job of balancing their sports programs, critics would say much more needs to done
in this area.
For some, the current gains made by female athletes under Title IX represent
sufficient progress. They believe that a more aggressive implementation of Title IX
would result in even more men’s non-revenue generating sports (such as wrestling) being
dropped by educational institutions in order to add mandated women’s teams to meet the
equity standards of the act.9
These opponents of Title IX point to the sports administrators at colleges and
universities selectively dropping men’s teams as an unintended consequence of Title IX
enforcement. They contend that the law has resulted in a kind of reverse discrimination
against men’s sports programs, substituting discrimination against men for discrimination
National Collegiate Athletic Association, NCAA Gender-Equity Report. (Indianapolis, IN: April
Amy Shipley, “Title IX at 25,” Washington Post, July 6, 1997, pp. A1, A6-7.
against women, and thus defeating the original intent of the law.10 They also point to the
fact that as women’s enrollment at colleges and universities continues to grow, making
women a majority of the student body at most educational institutions, it becomes more
difficult to meet the law’s requirement for proportionate athletic programs. Many
opponents have also suggested that the problems with compliance could be simplified by
removing football from the equation.
For advocates of Title IX, however, the perceived slow progress in implementing
gender equity is not only harmful, but also contravenes the legal requirements of the law.
They believe that educational institutions must adapt to the needs and legal rights of both
male and female students, and must serve the entire student population, rather than, in the
case of athletes, concentrating limited resources on a few high-profile sports like football
They also argue that Title IX has been the law since 1972, but only in the last 10
years have schools made an honest effort to meet the requirements of the law, and 30
years is sufficient time to bring athletic programs into compliance. Supporters of greater
enforcement of Title IX reject opponents’ arguments that men’s football and basketball
are revenue-producing sports and, thus, should not be included in formulas seeking to
achieve equity. This argument includes the proposition that men’s football and basketball
programs are critical to supporting all other no-revenue sports at most institutions.
Proponents do not entirely disagree with this pleading, but point out that over 40%
of NCAA Division I schools are losing money on their sports departments, even with
football and basketball. Advocates of Title IX also contend that these revenue sports not
only raise greater profits than most other sports played at the college level, as claimed, but
also consume a greater share of limited funds.
Under Title IX, a school is considered in compliance with the gender-equity requirements of
the statute if it meets one prong of a three-pronged test: if the ratio of female athletes to male
athletes is substantially proportionate to the ratio of female students to male students; if the
college or university can show that it is making a good faith effort to balance its programs over
time or in a reasonable number of years; or if the educational institution can show that there are
no unmet sports needs (interests) among the under-represented class, which is usually, but not
always, women. Determining if needs are being met can be accomplished by surveying the
student body for its opinions or by noting the number of club sports at the institution as a measure
of student interests in varsity versions of those sports.