Racism in the Baseball Card Market

In a new paper from Econ Journal Watch, two authors, David Findlay and John Santos, examine whether racism is manifest in the baseball card prices of black and Hispanic players.

To do so they build off the work of a previous paper by Hewitt, Muñoz, Oliver, and Regoli. Following the technique of the earlier paper, Findlay and Santos use a data set of players elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame between 1948 (a year after the race barrier was broken by Jackie Robinson) and 2004. In this interval there were 5 Hispanics, 18 blacks, and 33 whites admitted to the hall of fame.

The authors examine only rookie card prices and hold constant card quality, card availability, and player performance, which they measure with Total Baseball‘s “Total Pitcher Index” (TPI) and “Total Player Rating” (TPR). Holding these other attributes constant (using a mathematical model) allows Findlay and Santos to discern only the effect of racism on card prices.

The analysis found that there is no indication that racism plays a part in rookie card prices. That is, for two equally skilled players, one black and one white, their rookie card prices will depend only on rookie card quality and availability. The analysis also showed, unsurprisingly, that card prices increased the more skilled the player and more scarce the card. For instance, the authors find that a 10 percent decrease in card availability increases card prices by about 10 percent (using 2010 prices).

This does not, of course, imply that racism is absent in American society in other contexts, only that racism could easily be eliminated if we were able to buy and sell printed memorabilia of one another. I kid.

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