top of page

A Slam Dunk for Economic Development: The Growing Impact of Women’s Basketball

Caitlin Clark, Point Guard for the University of Iowa Women's Basketball Team

Image from David Berding/Getty, published in the Atlantic.

If you’ve been following college basketball lately, even casually, it’s impossible to ignore the increasing lure of the women’s teams as exemplified by Iowa and their star player, Caitlin Clark. A recent article from the New York Times found that tickets to Clark’s games at the University of Iowa were almost 200 percent more expensive than they were last year, enticing spectators to travel hundreds of miles to watch her play. Nearly 10 million people tuned in to see her play in the NCAA championship game last year, setting a viewership record. The cumulative effect of this spending to travel to, attend, and watch games can be quantified in terms of its economic impact on local economies, and college and professional sports in general.

Examining the impact on Iowa’s local economy, a 2024 report from Common Sense Institute (CSI) titled “Clarkonomics” found that Caitlin Clark added as much as $82.5 million to Iowa’s economy during her time there. This economic impact is primarily derived from increased attendance at Iowa women’s basketball games, with attendance 2.8 times greater in Clark’s senior year than before she joined the team and out-of-state attendance for regular season home games growing by over 38,000 fans. To put this into perspective, Cailtin Clark’s economic impact on the state was enough to purchase between 1,418 and 5,176 acres of Iowa cropland or pay the tuition for up to 4,767 students.

What does this kind of superstardom mean for women’s basketball as a whole? Viewership and corporate sponsorships are major sources of revenue for college and professional sports, but those two metrics have long lagged men’s sports. At the college level, increased investment and interest in women’s basketball, due in part to star power from players like Caitlin Clark, has created what Jadrian Wooten, an associate professor in economics at Virginia Tech calls a “virtuous cycle” – sparking growth to help close the gender equity gap. An increase in financial support can be reinvested into improving a sport’s quality, and as quality increases so too does viewership. This in turn attracts more corporate sponsorship and increases financial support, closing the loop and contributing to overall growth for the sport. After the 2023 NCAA tournament, both Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese, the star player from Louisiana State University, agreed to major sponsorship deals. Increased visibility from corporate sponsorships can help drive attention to these players and their sport, increasing awareness, interest, and overall revenue generation.

Angel Reese, Forward for LSU Women's Basketball Team.

Image from Ben Solomon/NCAA Photos via Getty Images, published in Essence.

Globally, Deloitte predicts that in 2024, generated revenue for women’s elite sports will surpass $1 billion for the first time, comprising a mix of commercial, broadcast, and matchday revenues. The NCAA women’s basketball tournament makes up a sizable portion of this broadcast revenue, and with the current $34 million broadcast contract for the NCAA women’s sports championships expiring in August, versus the reported standalone value of the tournament of over $100 million, Deloitte anticipates that women’s elite sports will continue to be given more prime time slots that increase viewership even when there is not a major event like the tournament happening. This will help ensure that women’s sports will continue to be increasingly at the forefront of audiences’ minds and generate significant economic impact for all involved.

For more information on the economic impact of women’s sports at the collegiate level and beyond, here’s a list of sources cited in the creation of this article:

Happy reading and watching!


bottom of page