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Extreme Wages, Performance, and Superstars in a Market for Footballers

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  • Rachel Scarfe
  • Carl Singleton
  • Paul Telemo

Abstract

We study the determinants of superstar wage effects, asking whether productivity or popularity‐based explanations are more appropriate. We use longitudinal wage and performance data for workers (players) and firms (teams) from a particular market for sports talent: Major League Soccer (MLS) in the United States. We find evidence that the top earners, whose annual salaries are mostly not accounted for by their past MLS performances, when compared to other footballers, are paid more because they attract significantly higher stadium attendances and thus revenues. There is no evidence that higher residual salary spending by the teams affects their relative performance in football terms, or that the amounts the teams spend on actual talent affect attendances. Taken together, these results suggest that a popularity‐based explanation of superstar wage effects is appropriate among the top earners in this labor market.

Suggested Citation

  • Rachel Scarfe & Carl Singleton & Paul Telemo, 2021. "Extreme Wages, Performance, and Superstars in a Market for Footballers," Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Society, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 60(1), pages 84-118, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:indres:v:60:y:2021:i:1:p:84-118
    DOI: 10.1111/irel.12270
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • L83 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Sports; Gambling; Restaurants; Recreation; Tourism
    • Z22 - Other Special Topics - - Sports Economics - - - Labor Issues

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