The Daily DeX 09/26/2019: Youth Sports Has Become A Rich Kid’s Game

+“Youth sports in the U.S.: Middle-class and poor kids are ditching youth sports” | CBS News | Aimee Picchi

“From Little League to the ubiquitous suburban soccer field, youth sports in the U.S. have long been considered an important part of growing up. But the rising cost of playing sports, coupled with rising economic inequality, is increasingly leading poor and even middle-class families to hang up their cleats.

That trend is being fueled by the growth in “pay-to-play” sports, which is making organized athletics prohibitively expensive for many households. Participation in sports among families earning less than $75,000 has dropped since 2011, according to The Aspen Institute’s Project Play. 

By contrast, children from better off families are participating in ever great numbers. About 7 of 10 children from families that earn more than $100,000 play sports, compared with 3 in 10 from families earning less than $25,000, the non-profit think tank found in a 2018 report.

The typical American family spends about $700 per year on their child’s sports activities, but some parents shell out as much as $35,000 annually to pay for lessons, camps, school sports fees, equipment, travel and more, according to Project Play. Even public schools are increasingly charging for sports due to budget cuts, data from the Rand Corporation shows.”

1) It’s not just New Agey types who have daily affirmations. Elites and the technocrats who do their bidding do too! Their latest and perhaps greatest goes something like “The world equally distributes talent, but not opportunity.” The stuff of for-profit university commercials, the technocracy angle here is that opportunities do not bloom from nature as talent does. Talent occurs naturally while opportunities must be created. While it’s difficult if not impossible to properly price talent, a society that can’t properly price opportunities sets itself up for massive systemic failures in the future. 

2) Youth sports is a prime and depressing example. On one level, organized sports builds character and keeps kids out of trouble. On another level, youth sports was once regarded as a ticket to a better life for talented athletes of modest means. Sadly, this is no longer as true as it once was. Youth sports is now being captured by higher-income families. Competition for scholarships from elite colleges and universities have (sometimes literally) turned youth sports into an arms race. A Harvard athletic recruit with high academic scores has an 83% chance of acceptance, while the average Havard applicant has only a 4% chance. Further, 43% of the white students admitted to Harvard are legacies, athletes, or the children of donors or faculty. The results of this kind of focused or at least concentrated disparity have been and will continue to be more inequality and less opportunity for those not born into elite families. 

3) We see the outcomes of these effects in major league baseball. In the early 1980s, almost 19% of Major League players were black. Now it’s about 7%. Over the years, the decrease has been driven by the rising costs of youth athletics. A little league baseball bat can cost $300. While black households have historically had significantly lower income and wealth levels than white households, even larger forces are at play, namely “deindustrialization, suburbanization, and mass incarceration.” As David Canton notes in U.S. News and World Reports: “These had a disproportionate impact on black men and their community and are the major reason why the percentage of black baseball players has declined since 1981.” Lastly, fewer blacks in baseball was also an effect caused by the disappearance of inner-city ballfields as municipalities became increasingly strapped for funds.

4) Still, the big picture is that elite capture of youth sports didn’t occur in a vacuum. It’s just one of countless effects of a 40-year retreat from broad-based social and economic conditions and policies that kept extreme income and wealth inequalities in check. Such measures as progressive taxation, working-class jobs that produced rising wages, and pre-globalization trade practices generated prosperity across all classes from the 1940s through the 1970s. The end of this phase of American capitalism (commonly known as the Thirty Glorious Years) is the lens through which youth sports as a way to build a resume rather than one’s character is best understood. 


Where are your hammers for these nails?

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Image Source: Image by Keith Johnston from Pixabay

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