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All-Star or benchwarmer? relative age, cohort size and career success in the NHL

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  • Bryson, Alex
  • Gomez, Rafael
  • Zhang, Tingting

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 percent 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. 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 2004-05 lockout appears to have muted the differentials in pay for large birth cohort players relative to their smaller birth cohort counterparts.

Suggested Citation

  • Bryson, Alex & Gomez, Rafael & Zhang, Tingting, 2015. "All-Star or benchwarmer? relative age, cohort size and career success in the NHL," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 61025, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:61025
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    File URL: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/61025/
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Wright, Robert E, 1991. "Cohort Size and Earnings in Great Britain," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 4(4), pages 295-305, November.
    2. Giorgio Brunello, 2010. "The effects of cohort size on European earnings," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 23(1), pages 273-290, January.
    3. Kahn, Lawrence M, 1993. "Free Agency, Long-Term Contracts and Compensation in Major League Baseball: Estimates from Panel Data," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 75(1), pages 157-164, February.
    4. Richard B. Freeman, 1979. "The Effect of Demographic Factors on Age-Earnings Profiles," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 14(3), pages 289-318.
    5. Idson, Todd L & Kahane, Leo H, 2000. "Team Effects on Compensation: An Application to Salary Determination in the National Hockey League," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 38(2), pages 345-357, April.
    6. Morin, Louis-Philippe, 2015. "Cohort size and youth earnings: Evidence from a quasi-experiment," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(C), pages 99-111.
    7. Sanders Korenman & David Neumark, 2000. "Cohort Crowding and Youth Labor Markets (A Cross-National Analysis)," NBER Chapters,in: Youth Employment and Joblessness in Advanced Countries, pages 57-106 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Berger, Mark C, 1985. "The Effect of Cohort Size on Earnings Growth: A Reexamination of the Evidence," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 93(3), pages 561-573, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. Hjertstrand, Per & Norb├Ąck, Pehr-Johan & Persson, lars, 2017. "The Educated Underdog Becomes the Ultimate Superstar," Working Paper Series 1176, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Cohort size; relative age; performance; productivity; wages; career; NHL;

    JEL classification:

    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics
    • J21 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Force and Employment, Size, and Structure
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • J62 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Job, Occupational and Intergenerational Mobility; Promotion

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