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The Economics of Discrimination: Evidence from Basketball

  • Kahn, Lawrence M.


    (Cornell University)

This Chapter reviews evidence on discrimination in basketball, primarily examining studies on race but with some discussion of gender as well. I focus on discrimination in pay, hiring, and retention against black NBA players and coaches and pay disparities by gender among college coaches. There was much evidence for each of these forms of discrimination against black NBA players in the 1980s. However, there appears to be less evidence of racial compensation, hiring and retention discrimination against black players in the 1990s and early 2000s than the 1980s. This apparent decline is consistent with research on customer discrimination in the NBA: in the 1980s, there was abundant evidence of fan preference for white players; however, since the 1980s, these preferences seem much weaker. There appears to be little evidence of pay, hiring or retention discrimination against black NBA coaches, and while male college basketball coaches outearn females, this gap is accounted for by differences in revenues and coaches' work histories. There is some dispute over whether these revenue differences are themselves the result of employer discrimination.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 3987.

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Length: 28 pages
Date of creation: Jan 2009
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: The Oxford Handbook of Sports Economics, Oxford, OUP, 2012
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp3987
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  1. Johnny Ducking & Peter Groothuis & James Hill, 2015. "Exit Discrimination in the NFL: A Duration Analysis of Career Length," The Review of Black Political Economy, Springer, vol. 42(3), pages 285-299, September.
  2. Hoang, Ha & Rascher, Dan, 1999. "The NBA, Exit Discrimination, and Career Earnings," MPRA Paper 3542, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  3. Price, Joseph & Wolfers, Justin, 2007. "Racial Discrimination Among NBA Referees," CEPR Discussion Papers 6369, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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  6. Orley Ashenfelter, 1971. "Racial Discrimination and Trade Unionism," Working Papers 390, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  7. Mark Gius & Donn Johnson, 1998. "An empirical investigation of wage discrimination in professional basketball," Applied Economics Letters, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 5(11), pages 703-705.
  8. Bodvarsson, Orn B. & Partridge, Mark D., 2001. "A supply and demand model of co-worker, employer and customer discrimination," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 8(3), pages 389-416, June.
  9. Gwartney, James & Haworth, Charles, 1974. "Employer Costs and Discrimination: The Case of Baseball," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(4), pages 873-81, July/Aug..
  10. McCormick, Robert E. & Tollison, Robert D., 2001. "Why do black basketball players work more for less money?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 44(2), pages 201-219, February.
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  13. Kahn, Lawrence M & Sherer, Peter D, 1988. "Racial Differences in Professional Basketball Players' Compensation," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 6(1), pages 40-61, January.
  14. Eric Stone & Ronald Warren, 1999. "Customer discrimination in professional basketball: evidence from the trading-card market," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 31(6), pages 679-685.
  15. Richard B. Freeman, 1981. "Union Wage Practices and Wage Dispersion within Establishments," NBER Working Papers 0752, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Brad R. Humphreys, 2000. "Equal Pay on the Hardwood: The Earnings Gap between Male and Female NCAA Division I Basketball Coaches," Journal of Sports Economics, , vol. 1(3), pages 299-307, August.
  17. Kanazawa, Mark T & Funk, Jonas P, 2001. "Racial Discrimination in Professional Basketball: Evidence from Nielsen Ratings," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 39(4), pages 599-608, October.
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