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Race and Employment Outcomes: Evidence from NBA Coaches

Nicholas Hill and Marc Remer
Economic Inquiry
April 2020

The role of race in employment outcomes has been widely studied in the social sciences, including in economics. In this article, Partner Nicholas Hill and co-author Marc Remer analyze the impact of race in a highly specialized labor market: head coaching positions in the National Basketball Association (NBA). Using data on NBA coaches and general managers, Drs. Hill and Remer found evidence that race does affect labor market outcomes.

First, they found that a general manager’s race affects the race of the coaches that he hires. Second, they found that race affects whether coaches are rehired soon after being fired. Third, they analyzed whether the quality of jobs, measured as the talent level of the team they coach, differs for black and white head coaches. Drs. Hill and Remer found that prior to 1998, first-time black coaches, on average, inherited worse teams, whereas after 1998, they tended to inherit more talented rosters. This finding supports the proposition that information on performance mitigates bias. Ultimately, however, the evidence shows that race affects labor market outcomes.

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