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Drawing Conclusions from Non-Random Samples: A Comment on “Race and Art: Prices for African American Painters and their Contemporaries” by Richard Agnello


  • Melissa Boyle

    () (Department of Economics, College of the Holy Cross)

  • Victor Matheson

    () (Department of Economics, College of the Holy Cross)


In a recent paper in the Journal of Black Studies, “Race and Art: Prices for African American Painters and Their Contemporaries,” economist Richard Agnello examines price differentials between paintings sold at auction from 1972 to 2004 for a set of 16 African American artists, and a group of white artists identified as similar contemporaries. In this short paper we examine Agnello’s control group of white artists and confirm that this is a non-randomly selected sample of artists that are, on average, quantifiably more famous than the black artists in Agnello’s treatment group. In light of this selection bias, we discuss the difficulty of disentangling the effects of race and fame on auction prices.

Suggested Citation

  • Melissa Boyle & Victor Matheson, 2009. "Drawing Conclusions from Non-Random Samples: A Comment on “Race and Art: Prices for African American Painters and their Contemporaries” by Richard Agnello," Working Papers 0906, College of the Holy Cross, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:hcx:wpaper:0906

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    More about this item


    African American painters; economics of art; sample bias;

    JEL classification:

    • Z11 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economics of the Arts and Literature
    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J70 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination - - - General

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