Campbell: Experts dismiss study on black baseball and single parenthood

From Morgan Campbell at the Toronto Star on October 31, 2016, with mention of SABR member Adrian Burgos Jr.:

In leading off Game 1 of the World Series, Dexter Fowler made history.

Being the first Chicago Cub on the field made him the man who officially broke the team’s 71-year-old World Series drought, and the first African-American to play in the Fall Classic in a Cubs uniform.

But the milestone highlighted the steady decline in African-American major league players. U.S.-born black players composed just 8.3 per cent of opening day rosters in 2015, and a conservative think tank announced last week it had identified a key factor driving the trend: Single parenthood.

A study published by the Austin Institute for The Study of Family and Culture points out that 70 per cent of African-American children are born to unmarried mothers, up from roughly five per cent in 1947, when big league baseball integrated. That rise coincides with slumping baseball enrollment among black youth, largely because kids with absent dads aren’t introduced to the sport, say the authors of the study, titled “Called Out at Home.”

But experts on race and baseball say the research is way off base, especially given that MLB’s first two African-American players, Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby, grew up in female-headed households.

They contend the bigger problem is that low-cost, high-level baseball has vanished from African-American communities.


Those undercurrents flow into a broader discussion about the Major League Baseball’s on-field demographics. Every season between 1973 and 1988 African-Americans composed at least 17 per cent of MLB rosters, according to the Society for American Baseball Research.

While black players from Latin America abound, most research categorizes those players as Latino rather than African-American, a U.S.-born demographic whose MLB presence has shrunk since the 1990s.

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Originally published: October 31, 2016. Last Updated: October 31, 2016.