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Revealed Comparative Advantage and Specialization in Athletics


  • Cindy Du Bois

    () (Vrije Universiteit Brussel)

  • Bruno Heyndels

    () (Vrije Universiteit Brussel)


Using entries in the 2005 IAAF rankings as a measure of a country’s success in athletics, we analyse intercountry differences in athletic specialisation (measured through an index for revealed symmetric comparative advantage). A Tobit II model identifies macro-economic, sociological and political conditions that shape patterns of specialisation. We observe geographical patterns: African and Carribean (and to a lesser extent Asian) countries have a ‘typical’ pattern of specialisation. Highly populated as well as richer countries diversify more. Larger countries specialise in sprinting and middle distance running while leading to comparative disadvantages in non-running events. Finally, (former) socialist countries have a significant revealed comparative advantage in non-running events and a disadvantage in sprinting.

Suggested Citation

  • Cindy Du Bois & Bruno Heyndels, 2007. "Revealed Comparative Advantage and Specialization in Athletics," IASE Conference Papers 0702, International Association of Sports Economists.
  • Handle: RePEc:spe:cpaper:0702

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    File Function: Paper presented at the 9th annual IASE Conference in Dayton, Ohio, May 2007
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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Lins, Marcos P. Estellita & Gomes, Eliane G. & Soares de Mello, Joao Carlos C. B. & Soares de Mello, Adelino Jose R., 2003. "Olympic ranking based on a zero sum gains DEA model," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 148(2), pages 312-322, July.
    2. Heather Mitchell & Mark Stewart, 2007. "A competitive index for international sport," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 39(5), pages 587-603.
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    More about this item


    athletics; revealed comparative advantage; specialisation;

    JEL classification:

    • L83 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Sports; Gambling; Restaurants; Recreation; Tourism

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