Swartz: Class, race, weather, and getting ahead in Major League Baseball

From SABR member Matt Swartz at The Hardball Times on March 3, 2014:

Opportunity has been a hot topic lately in economics, and it is important in Major League Baseball, as well. The rest of the world has been able to escape poverty at rates unobserved in human history, and foreigners have been able to play in the majors at record rates.

However, in terms of both economic mobility and baseball, it has been difficult for many native-born Americans to get ahead. In this article, I will discuss some of the changes that have transpired regarding where baseball players are born along with the economic implications.

The most notable topic related to mobility that has appeared in baseball research is the concerning decline of African-Americans in baseball over the years. Mark Armour and Dan Levitt recently wrote about the rise and decline of the share of African-Americans in Major League Baseball from Jackie Robinson’s emergence on the scene until 2012. They show the percentage of baseball players who are African-Americans peaking at 18.7 percent in 1981, only to fall all the way to 7.2 percent in 2012.

Armour and Levitt highlight that some of this trend comes from the fact that African-Americans are disproportionately position players (especially outfielders), and the growing share of pitchers on MLB rosters has contributed to this decline. However, this does not begin to explain the decline by more than half, nor does the share of Latinos and Asians.

As their data show, even though the fraction of Latinos and Asians has grown by 17.8 percent (from 11.0 percent to 28.8 percent) during this time, the decline in Whites has only gone from 70.1 percent to 63.9 percent (a 6.2 percent decline), while the share of African-Americans has fallen by 9.5 percent.

Read the full article here: http://www.hardballtimes.com/class-race-weather-and-getting-ahead-in-major-league-baseball/

Originally published: March 3, 2014. Last Updated: March 3, 2014.