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The Economics of Persistence: Graduation Rates of Athletes as Labor Market Choice


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    The issue of compatibility of athletics and academics has led to much concern over the observed disparity in graduation rates of scholarship athletes across institutions. It is ironic that no one mentions that graduation rates for nonathletes also vary dramatically across campuses. Our approach is to consider the decision to persist in school as part of the economic calculation made by students comparing alternative labor market returns. If there is very little marginal value to holding a degree from a particular school, relatively few students should persist to graduation. For some scholarship athletes, there is another labor market alternative not available to the traditional student: professional sports. Graduation rates for these athletes should therefore reflect their opportunities in sports as well as the more traditional opportunities available to other students at the same school. We analyze data for each Division I NCAA school on academic characteristics, athletic characteristics and graduation rates. Three groups of athletes are studied: male football players, male basketball players and female basketball players. We find strong empirical evidence that traditional labor market opportunities unrelated to sport are significant explanatory variables of persistence of athletes. In addition, we find support for the hypothesis that professional opportunities have a significant impact on the graduation rate of athletes. This impact is stronger in sports with higher expected financial returns from this form of non- degree employment.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in its series Working Papers with number _001.

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    Date of creation: Jul 1994
    Date of revision: 1996
    Publication status: Forthcoming in the Journal of Human Resources
    Handle: RePEc:wop:ilucwp:_001

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    Cited by:
    1. Murphy, Kevin J., 2000. "What effect does uncertainty have on the length of labor contracts?," Labour Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 7(2), pages 181-201, March.
    2. Alex Krumer & Tal Shavit & Mosi Rosenboim, 2011. "Why do professional athletes have different time preferences than non-athletes?," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 6(6), pages 542-551, August.
    3. Lawrence M. Kahn, 2007. "Markets: Cartel Behavior and Amateurism in College Sports," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 21(1), pages 209-226, Winter.
    4. Kahn, Lawrence M., 2006. "The Economics of College Sports: Cartel Behavior vs. Amateurism," IZA Discussion Papers 2186, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).


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