Great news! We fixed racism. Against white people. In the NBA.

There's a persistent wage gap in the American economy. Though they've made great strides over the last half century, minorities still earn less than white men.

But there is at least one corner of the economy where pay sees no color - where a new, detailed economic analysis finds no evidence of wage discrimination of any kind:

The National Basketball Association.

In a paper set to be published in Economics Bulletin, University of Toledo economist Olugbenga Ajilore (a longtime Clippers fan) uses salary data and advanced basketball statistics to argue, convincingly, that white, American-born players aren't discriminated against when it comes to NBA pay.

Yes. White, American-born players.

Backstory: Economists like to study relatively small, contained things, like sports leagues, for clues about big, difficult-to-study things, like the total American economy. This is why there's a whole literature of research about NBA pay. Some of that research has suggested in the past that white American players earn less than African-American players, because team executives might think white players don't remind them of great players. As Ajilore explains:

Statistical discrimination may explain reverse discrimination because traditionally the best players in the NBA are African-American and over the past 25 years there have been few White American athletes to excel in the NBA. While there have been an influx of White international players from European and South American countries, White Americans are generally not considered elite athletes. Thus, White Americans who aspire to the NBA may see lower wages ... relative to African-Americans and international players.

So Ajilore investigated to see if that was true -- if white American players were making less money for the same value they bring to a team. Instead of using standard stats like points, rebounds and assists, he determined that value with two advanced metrics: PER (player efficiency rating) and win shares.

His analysis turned up no evidence that white American players were being paid less, for their value, than anyone else. Why is that? "One explanation," Ajilore writes, "is that with detailed information about athletes at a young age and the resources devoted to scouting not just in the Unites States but overseas, there is no need for teams to statistically discriminate."

In other words, Ajilore thinks discrimination might decline as employers get more and more information on potential employees/point guards. There's certainly more and more employee information coming available in the broader economy today. We'll see if it helps bridge the pay gap.

Jim Tankersley is the editor of Storyline, where he explains complex public policies and illuminates their human impact. He's from Oregon, and he misses it.
Comments
Show Comments
Most Read Business
Next Story
Sarah Kliff · January 17