Creative research?

Posted: July 1, 2010 in Cleetus posts

One reason I enjoy going into databases and find some strange sounding journal and randomly scan articles in that journal is to spot interesting methods and in particular samples. It doesn’t matter if it is obscure science parks in rural Vietnam or UFO observers or people that live in really tall buildings (find them at Goggle Scholar). Bubba is fond of organic metaphors but I often use sports because even the redneck dudes in class seem to be able to relate. One of my friends at Yale told me about this paper that investigates race discrimination by analyzing NBA games. She uses it in her classes and the students really respond to it. Here is the abstract:

The NBA provides an intriguing place to test for taste-based discrimination: referees and players are

involved in repeated interactions in a high-pressure setting with referees making the type of split-second

decisions that might allow implicit racial biases to manifest themselves. Moreover, the referees receive

constant monitoring and feedback on their performance. (Commissioner Stern has claimed that NBA

referees “are the most ranked, rated, reviewed, statistically analyzed and mentored group of employees

of any company in any place in the world.”) The essentially arbitrary assignment of refereeing crews

to basketball games, and the number of repeated interactions allow us to convincingly test for own-race

preferences. We find — even conditioning on player and referee fixed effects (and specific game fixed

effects) — that more personal fouls are called against players when they are officiated by an opposite-race

refereeing crew than when officiated by an own-race crew. These biases are sufficiently large that

we find appreciable differences in whether predominantly black teams are more likely to win or lose,

based on the racial composition of the refereeing crew.



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