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Racial Discrimination Among NBA Referees

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  • Price, Joseph
  • Wolfers, Justin

Abstract

The NBA provides an intriguing place to test for taste-based discrimination: referees and players are involved in repeated interactions in a high-pressure setting with referees making the type of split-second decisions that might allow implicit racial biases to manifest themselves. Moreover, the referees receive constant monitoring and feedback on their performance. (Commissioner Stern has claimed that NBA referees “are the most ranked, rated, reviewed, statistically analyzed and mentored group of employees of any company in any place in the world.”) The essentially arbitrary assignment of refereeing crews to basketball games, and the number of repeated interactions allow us to convincingly test for own-race preferences. We find—even conditioning on player and referee fixed effects (and specific game fixed effects)—that more personal fouls are called against players when they are officiated by an opposite-race refereeing crew than when officiated by an own-race crew. These biases are sufficiently large that we find appreciable differences in whether predominantly black teams are more likely to win or lose, based on the racial composition of the refereeing crew.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 6369.

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Date of creation: Jun 2007
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:6369

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Keywords: basketball; discrimination; evaluation; implicit discrimination; own-race bias; race;

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References

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  1. Michael A. Stoll & Steven Raphael & Harry J. Holzer, 2004. "Black job applicants and the hiring officer's race," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 57(2), pages 267-287, January.
  2. Donohue, John J, III & Levitt, Steven D, 2001. "The Impact of Race on Policing and Arrests," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 44(2), pages 367-94, October.
  3. Marianne Bertrand & Dolly Chugh & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2005. "Implicit Discrimination," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(2), pages 94-98, May.
  4. Kate L. Antonovics & Brian G. Knight, 2004. "A New Look at Racial Profiling: Evidence from the Boston Police Department," NBER Working Papers 10634, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Kahn, Lawrence M & Sherer, Peter D, 1988. "Racial Differences in Professional Basketball Players' Compensation," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 6(1), pages 40-61, January.
  6. Lawrence M. Kahn, 1991. "Discrimination in professional sports: A survey of the literature," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 44(3), pages 395-418, April.
  7. Max Schanzenbach, 2005. "Racial and Sex Disparities in Prison Sentences: The Effect of District-Level Judicial Demographics," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 34(1), pages 57-92, 01.
  8. Kubatko Justin & Oliver Dean & Pelton Kevin & Rosenbaum Dan T, 2007. "A Starting Point for Analyzing Basketball Statistics," Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports, De Gruyter, vol. 3(3), pages 1-24, July.
  9. Örn B. Bodvarsson & Raymond T. Brastow, 1999. "A Test Of Employer Discrimination In The Nba," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 17(2), pages 243-255, 04.
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