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Peer Effects in Team Sports: Empirical Evidence from NCAA Relay Teams


  • Craig A. Depken, II

    () (Department of Economics, University of North Carolina - Charlotte)

  • Lisa E. Haglund

    () (Department of Economics, University of Texas at Arlington)


This paper investigates whether disparity in team member quality impacts team production using NCAA 4x400m relay teams. The net peer effects are estimated to have both an absolute and relative negative effect on the team performance. Because NCAA relay teams are comprised of unpaid amateurs, we utilize a direct measure of team-member quality rather than indirect measures such as wages. The evidence suggests that a greater disparity in team member quality reduces team performance, that is, it increases a relay team’s running time. This suggests that net negative peer effects exist and support the “team cohesiveness hypothesis” for NCAA relay teams.

Suggested Citation

  • Craig A. Depken, II & Lisa E. Haglund, 2007. "Peer Effects in Team Sports: Empirical Evidence from NCAA Relay Teams," Working Papers 0729, International Association of Sports Economists;North American Association of Sports Economists.
  • Handle: RePEc:spe:wpaper:0729

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Lazear, Edward P & Rosen, Sherwin, 1981. "Rank-Order Tournaments as Optimum Labor Contracts," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(5), pages 841-864, October.
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    3. Allen R. Sanderson & John J. Siegfried, 2003. "Thinking about Competitive Balance," Journal of Sports Economics, , vol. 4(4), pages 255-279, November.
    4. Barron, John M & Gjerde, Kathy Paulson, 1997. "Peer Pressure in an Agency Relationship," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(2), pages 234-254, April.
    5. Armin Falk & Andrea Ichino, 2006. "Clean Evidence on Peer Effects," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(1), pages 39-58, January.
    6. DepkenII, Craig A., 2000. "Wage disparity and team productivity: evidence from major league baseball," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 67(1), pages 87-92, April.
    7. Fiona Carmichael & Dennis Thomas & Robert Ward, 2000. "Team performance: the case of English Premiership football," Managerial and Decision Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 21(1), pages 31-45.
    8. Grossman, Sanford J & Hart, Oliver D, 1983. "An Analysis of the Principal-Agent Problem," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 51(1), pages 7-45, January.
    9. Ramaswamy, Ramana & Rowthorn, Robert E, 1991. "Efficiency Wages and Wage Dispersion," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 58(232), pages 501-514, November.
    10. Bengt Holmstrom, 1979. "Moral Hazard and Observability," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 10(1), pages 74-91, Spring.
    11. Groves, Theodore, 1973. "Incentives in Teams," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 41(4), pages 617-631, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. Brady, Ryan R. & Insler, Michael A. & Rahman, Ahmed S., 2017. "Bad Company: Understanding negative peer effects in college achievement," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 98(C), pages 144-168.
    2. Julia Müller & Thorsten Upmann & Joachim Prinz, 2013. "Individual Team Productivity - A Conceptual Approach," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 13-183/I, Tinbergen Institute.
    3. Brad R. Humphreys & Jie Yang, 2014. "Peer Enforcement in Teams: Evidence from High-Skill Professional Workers with Repeated Interactions," Working Papers 14-24, Department of Economics, West Virginia University.

    More about this item


    teamwork; shirking; track and field; sports;

    JEL classification:

    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • L20 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - General
    • L83 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Sports; Gambling; Restaurants; Recreation; Tourism

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