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« Externalities Can Be Government Failures Too | Main | Winning in Strange Ways »


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Eric Parsons

"If bias does affect calls, it must largely occur in the subconscious mind of referees and it shouldn't appear very often."

I saw this paper presented at MU (and I have a copy of the working paper), and the above quote really gets to the heart of the paper's results. Wolfers, et. al. are NOT saying that refs are consciously racist. They are trying to examine how the mind subconsciously works during split-second "gray" decisions. This is a point that I believe has been largely ignored by the media, despite the fact that it is the viewpoint underlying the entire paper.

Regarding the fact that the paper looked at referee crews, not individual referees, if I remember correctly, the authors address this issue by throwing out all observations from mixed race crews, i.e. comparing all-black crews to all-white crews. The results were substantively similar.


It sounds like Price and Wolfers have ruled out conscious bias as a factor in calling fouls. Might this paper be more of a psychology paper than an economics paper (not that there's anything wrong with that ;-) )?


It's been talked about for a long time how certain players get certain calls, but because of their star status, not because of their race.

Eric Parsons

I agree that really, at its essence, it's more of a psych paper than a economics paper. Wolfers would probably agree, as well. In fact, if he had his druthers, he said that he would like to give each of the NBA refs this electronic psych test that is supposed to measure unconsious biases and match that with his results.

Also, when he presented the paper, I thought that the star issue might be something interesting to look into as well.

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