Average Level of Education Analysis

The University of North Carolina has been integral to the development of women’s soccer in the United States, producing talented players such as Mia Hamm and Tobin Heath, and legendary coach Anson Dorance (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:North_Carolina_Tar_Heels_2006_College_Cup_Champions.jpg)
Anson Dorrance, pictured with former UNC and USWNT player Heather O’Reilly, is a legendary figure in women’s soccer. He has coached the UNC women’s team since 1979 and coached the USWNT for 8 years (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Heather_O%27Reilly_and_Anson_Dorrance_2006.jpg)

The Average Level of Education index comes from a report published by the United Nations as a part of their Human Development Reports.  The index is purely based off of the mean years of schooling in each country, giving scores on a 0 to 1 basis. Educational institutions have been very important to the development of soccer globally.  Some of the first teams in a region are often associated with schools. Soccer was often brought to areas as a way to supplement formal education with lessons that are best learned through sport. Hence, in the development of men’s soccer, areas with schools often developed as soccer hotbeds.  While the landscape for sports, education and everything else has drastically changed since the time when men’s soccer was first spreading, it could still be that education affects the development of women’s soccer.

In the United States, teams are often associated with High Schools or colleges.  Up until recently, all national team players came from US colleges, with the University of North Carolina of particular note.  Several famous players, as well as former US Women’s coach Anson Dorrance, all came from the dominant UNC program.

It should be noted that levels of education are often highly correlated with other factors already examined in this study.  Higher education levels typically correlates with higher GDP Per Capita and sometimes with increased levels of women’s rights.  Additionally, average years of education is a fairly poor proxy for the overall culture of educational systems in a country.  Just because citizens off a country are receiving several years of education does not mean that schools offer and encourage lots of athletic opportunities.  However, since it is difficult to quantify how likely a country is to have a schooling system conducive to launching school sports teams, average years of education can attempt to serve as a metric for determining the overall commitment to education in a country.

The correlation between women’s soccer rankings and the average level of education in the country yielded a t-value of -0.49 and a p-value of .628, showing a correlation between the two variables that is negative but not statistically significant.  This does not suggest that higher levels of education in a country actually decrease the chances of having a strong women’s soccer team; it really just shows that there is no link between the two variables in question.

It is curious, since many nations with strong women’s soccer teams appear near the top of the list for average level of education, with countries Australia, New Zealand and Norway topping the list. However, the data shows that no significant correlation exists between level of education in a country and the country’s women’s soccer team.  The metric of average level of education in a country is a poor proxy for what educational institutions in a nation look like and how likely they are to foster sports.  It is extremely hard to quantify this in a neat way that could be analyzed in this test.  That is likely the reason that no relationship was found.  It is still likely that education in a country influences the development of sports, and in particular, women’s sports, but the average level of education tells nothing about the likelihood of country to have a strong women’s soccer team.

“Education Index.” United Nations Development Program: Human Development Reports, hdr.undp.org/en/content/education-index. Accessed 21 Apr. 2019.

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2 Comments

  1. This data is interesting, though you might note that the particular situation of the U.S. — where there is such a tight connection between sports development, particularly in women’s soccer, and the higher education system, makes it a particularly unique case and in some ways an outlier. I’m not sure how much it changes the statistics to pull the U.S. out and run the numbers for the remaining countries, but that could be interesting to include & discuss.

  2. That’s true. We might have been biased by our own experiences (sport and educational institutions are so interrelated here in the US). I calculated the r^2 value for average level of education and women’s FIFA rank with and without the US included in the sample. The r^2 sample decreased from 0.2947 to 0.2834. This is unsurprising, as it is unlikely that one entry would alter the results very much, given that this sample has around 100 values.
    I think that this variable was not very valuable, as average level of education does not tell much about the state of educational institutions in a country, but I’m still glad we looked into it! A whole report could be done on the relationship between educational institutions and national sports teams.

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