Sept. 28, 2005
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Despite cultural stereotypes about their passivity, young Asian American women are just as likely to participate in sports as other groups of young women — perhaps even more so, according to a study conducted by CUA sociology professor Sandra L. Hanson.
The study, published in the latest issue of the Journal of Sport and Social Issues (volume 29, number 3), measures Asian American girls’ participation in sports against that of black, white and Hispanic girls.
Hanson found that at certain ages Asian American girls participate in sports more than young white girls do. In 10th grade, for example, the only sport Asian American girls didn’t participate in as much as white girls is cheerleading. In 12th grade, young Asian American women are twice as likely to be involved in an individual school sport as their Hispanic counterparts. In general there are more differences between Asian American girls and those from other racial and ethnic minority groups (black and Hispanic) than between Asian American and white girls.
Hanson used longitudinal data from the National Center for Education Statistics’ National Education Longitudinal Study, a nationally representative sample of eighth-graders first surveyed in the spring of 1988, resurveyed every two years until 1994 and then again in 2000. This data includes the most extensive measures of sport experiences available in a nationally representative sample, Hanson says, and allowed her to compare the experiences of girls from the same cohort at different ages.
Hanson has done considerable research on the positive consequences of sport for young women. But she found Asian American women were virtually absent in this literature. This is surprising given the recent influx of Asians into the United States, she says. It becomes less surprising when one considers stereotypes about Asians being the model minority (as a result of their academic and occupational achievements) and stereotypes about the frail, passive Asian woman, Hanson says.
The stereotypes are misleading. “If you look at the culture carefully, you’ll see that on the one hand it’s a traditional one. On the other hand, Asian American women, overall, have higher levels of education, labor force participation, occupational status, and income than do other women,” Hanson explains. These non-traditional roles might make entry into the non-traditional (typically male) area of sport more natural and comfortable.
Hanson views sport as an important resource for the physical, psychological and academic development of both young men and women. She suggests that race and gender stereotypes about who should participate in sports are often inaccurate and have negative implications for young peoples’ athletic opportunities.
The professor hopes that her study, titled “Hidden Dragons: Asian American Women and Sport,” prompts a closer look at Asian American women’s participation in sports among policy makers, advocacy groups and coaches’ organizations. If young Asian American golfers such as Aree Song, Michelle Wie and others are any proof, the hidden dragons are already emerging from their lairs.
Sandra Hanson is a professor of sociology at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. and an authority on minority women in sport and science. To request an interview or additional information, contact Chris Harrison or Katie Lee in the Office of Public Affairs at 202-319-5600.
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