Friday, August 22, 2008

racial bias among NBA referees

Although this article made headlines a while back, I still want to include it on this blog. Joseph Price (BYU) and Justin Wolfers (Penn) find evidence of racial bias among NBA referees. They show that the number of expected fouls given to a player during a game depends on the player's race and the racial mix of the refereeing crew. They identify a own-race bias amongst the referees. A white refereeing crew, compared to a black refereeing crew, calls relatively fewer fouls on white players than on black players; and vice versa. Although the bias is small--small enough that it would not be noticed just by watching the games--it is large-enough to affect the outcome of a close game.

Why is this interesting? Because NBA referees are amongst the people we would expect to be least biased. If race influences the split-second decisions of the referees, then it probably also influences the split-second decisions of almost everyone else, even it we don't intend for it to.

read the article

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