This project was designed to determine what factors lead certain women’s teams to be successful. It was first conceived with the idea that the level of women’s rights in a country is a very important factor. Why else would countries like the United States, Canada and Japan, who all have sub-par men’s teams, be perennial powerhouses? While measuring and comparing women’s rights between countries is extremely complicated, we found some metrics that capture sentiments similar to women’s rights. And we were very excited by the results. We believe that the findings provide insight into what leads some countries to have successful women’s soccer teams.
Of the seven factors that we tested, four were found to have a statistically significant relationship with the FIFA women’s rankings. GDP Per Capita, Economic Freedom and the national average level of education were all found to not have a statistically significant correlation with women’s soccer rankings. This is not shocking, as all three of these variables are not very intimately related to the development of a national team. GDP Per Capita speaks to conditions in a country and gives an idea of the prosperity of the country, but this was not found to impact the success of a nation’s women’s team. Similarly, economic freedom and average level of education do not impact the strength of a nation’s women’s soccer team. It is valuable to know that these factors do not matter and can be ignored.
The most surprising result was that population had a statistically significant but negative correlation with women’s soccer rankings. As discussed on the page dedicated to this data, this finding is being generally ignored and attributed to a small sample size. It seems preposterous to suggest that countries with a smaller population would actually be at an advantage. So we are assuming that the result was an error and actually serves to suggest that population is not significantly correlated with women’s soccer success.
The three factors that showed statistically significant and positive correlations are the ranking of the men’s team, and the two proxies for women’s rights: the gender gap index and the rate of female participation in government. This finding makes logical sense, and provides valuable insight into what leads women’s soccer nations to be successful.
The fact that the men’s and women’s soccer rankings are correlated significantly implies that there are nations that are more skilled in soccer. This could be because they are bigger fans of soccer, have developed a culture around soccer and have institutions in place for developing talent. It could be due to any number of reasons, but the fact is that countries with a strong men’s team are more likely to have a strong women’s team.
Additionally, the fact that both the gender gap index and the rate of female participation in government had significant correlations with women’s rankings highlights the importance of women’s rights to the development of women’s national teams. Nations that have more empowered women are much more likely to have strong women’s teams, a result that is not surprising but it very interesting to see supported by data.