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All-Star or Benchwarmer? Relative Age, Cohort Size and Career Success in the NHL

In: Breaking the Ice

Author

Listed:
  • Alex Bryson

    (University College London)

  • Rafael Gomez

    (University of Toronto)

  • Tingting Zhang

    (University of Toronto)

Abstract

We analyze the performance outcomes of National Hockey League (NHL) players over 18 seasons (1990–1991 to 2007–2008) as a function of the demographic conditions into which they were born. We have three main findings. First, larger birth cohorts substantially affect careers. A player born into a large birth cohort can expect an earnings loss of roughly 18% over the course of an average career as compared to a small birth cohort counterpart. The loss in earnings is driven chiefly by supply-side factors in the form of excess cohort competition and not quality differences since the performance of players (as measured by point totals for non-goalies) is actually significantly greater for players born into large birth cohorts. Performance-adjusted wage losses for those born in large birth cohorts are therefore greater than the raw estimates would suggest. Second, career effects differ by relative age. Those born in early calendar months (January to April) are more likely to make it into the NHL, but display significantly lower performance across all birth cohorts than later calendar births (September to December). In short, those in the top echelon of NHL achievement are drawn from fatter cohorts and later relative age categories, consistent with the need to be of greater relative talent in order to overcome significant early barriers (biases) in achievement. We find league expansions increase entry level salaries including the salaries of those born into larger birth cohorts, but they do not affect salaries of older players. Finally we find that the 2004–2005 lock-out appears to have muted the differentials in pay for large birth cohort players relative to their smaller birth cohort counterparts.

Suggested Citation

  • Alex Bryson & Rafael Gomez & Tingting Zhang, 2017. "All-Star or Benchwarmer? Relative Age, Cohort Size and Career Success in the NHL," Sports Economics, Management, and Policy, in: Bernd Frick (ed.), Breaking the Ice, pages 57-91, Springer.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:semchp:978-3-319-67922-8_4
    DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-67922-8_4
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Welch, Finis, 1979. "Effects of Cohort Size on Earnings: The Baby Boom Babies' Financial Bust," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(5), pages 65-97, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Luca Fumarco & Giambattista Rossi, 2015. "Relative Age Effect on Labor Market Outcomes for High Skilled Workers – Evidence from Soccer," Management Working Papers 9, Birkbeck Department of Management, revised Mar 2015.
    2. Fumarco, Luca & Gibbs, Benjamin & Jarvis, Jonathan & Rossi, Giambattista, 2016. "The Relative Age Effect Reversal among NHL Elite," MPRA Paper 75691, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Luca Fumarco & Benjamin G Gibbs & Jonathan A Jarvis & Giambattista Rossi, 2017. "The relative age effect reversal among the National Hockey League elite," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 12(8), pages 1-16, August.
    4. John R Doyle & Paul A Bottomley, 2018. "Relative age effect in elite soccer: More early-born players, but no better valued, and no paragon clubs or countries," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 13(2), pages 1-13, February.
    5. Hjertstrand, Per & Norbäck, Pehr-Johan & Persson, lars, 2017. "The Educated Underdog Becomes the Ultimate Superstar," Working Paper Series 1176, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics
    • 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

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