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Racial Discrimination Among NBA Referees

  • Joseph Price

    (Brigham Young University and National Bureau of Economic Research.)

  • Justin Wolfers

    (Wharton, University of Pennsylvania, Brookings, Centre for Economic and Policy Research, Center for Economic Studies and IFO Institute for Economic Research, Institute for the Study of Labor, and National Bureau of Economic Research.)

The NBA provides an intriguing place to assess discrimination: referees and players are involved in repeated interactions in a high-pressure setting, with referees making split-second decisions that might allow implicit racial biases to become evident. We find that more personal fouls are awarded against players when they are officiated by an opposite-race officiating crew than when they are officiated by an own-race refereeing crew. These biases are sufficiently large so that they affect the outcome of an appreciable number of games. Our results do not distinguish whether the bias stems from the actions of white or black referees. (c) 2010 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology..

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Article provided by MIT Press in its journal Quarterly Journal of Economics.

Volume (Year): 125 (2010)
Issue (Month): 4 (November)
Pages: 1859-1887

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Handle: RePEc:tpr:qjecon:v:125:y:2010:i:4:p:1859-1887
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  1. 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.
  2. 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.
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  4. Marianne Bertrand & Dolly Chugh & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2005. "Implicit Discrimination," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(2), pages 94-98, May.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
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