Hoop Inequalities now Published at International Review for the Sociology of Sport

Hoop inequalities: Race, class and family structure background and the odds of playing in the National Basketball Association

Joshua Kjerulf Dubrow  Polish Academy of Sciences, Poland

jimi adams Arizona State University, USA

Now featured at ESPN and Harvard Business Review Stat of the Day

The popular image of the African American National Basketball Association (NBA) player as rising from the ‘ghetto’ to international fame and fortune misleads academics and publics alike. This false image is fueled, in part, by critical shortcomings in empirical research on the relationship between race, sport, and occupational mobility: these studies have not adequately examined differences in social class and family structure backgrounds across, and especially within, racial groups. To address this problem, we empirically investigate how the intersection of race, social class and family structure background influences entry into the NBA. Information on social class and family structure background for a subpopulation of NBA players (N = 155) comes from 245 articles published in local, regional and national newspapers between 1994 and 2004. We find that, after accounting for methodological problems common in newspaper data, most NBA players come from relatively advantaged social origins and African Americans from disadvantaged social origins have lower odds of being in the NBA than African American and white players from relatively advantaged origins. A discussion of the implications of these findings for academics and publics concludes the article.

Dubrow, Joshua Kerjulf and jimi adams.  “Hoop Inequalities: Race, Class and Family Structure Background and the Odds of Playing in the National Basketball Association.”  Forthcoming, International Review for the Sociology of Sport.


Hoop Inequalities Companion Website

We created a companion website for the revised article under review, “Hoop Inequalities: Race, Class and Family Structure Background and the Odds of Playing in the National Basketball Association.”  The primary purpose of the website is to more fully explain the theoretical and methodological issues of the article.  In the website, we present details of our theory and methodology at a depth that is not possible within a traditional journal format where, understandably, there are limits to article length.  Reviewers are invited to download all documents as one PDF file, or to view them on the internet:


Download Hoop Inequalities Appendices as PDF

We feel it is necessary to provide these details because of the length of the theoretical literature and the methodological complexities that arise from using newspaper data to collect social origins data on professional athletes. 

In light of the compromise between the reviewers’ suggestions, we reduced the front-end theory section to its essentials.  Yet, we did not want to lose the depth the theory provides.  Thus, the theory section is in expanded form on the website.

The main methodological issues are as follows:

(1)  Article selection via search engine (Lexis Nexis, in this case) depends heavily on the choice of words put into the search engine (and, thus, the number of missing cases);

(2)  Newspaper articles do not always provide enough information to adequately identify social origins;

(3)  Sampling on the dependent variable;

(4)  Description bias, which refers to a situation in which the newspaper, for a variety of reasons, including its own and its reporters’ prejudices, reports information incorrectly;

(5)   Selection bias is a possibility: the most common type is newspaper-based selection bias, where useful newspaper articles are more commonly found based on criteria particular to the newspaper and the subjects of the articles.

In the article itself, we provide detailed information on how we dealt with issues (1), (2), (3) (4) and some complexities of issue (5).  In the companion website, we provide two appendices that more fully address the methodological issues:  Appendix A matches article information to themes of class and family structure background; Appendix B provides details on how we addressed issue (5) with a statistical procedure. 

Because this is an article under review, the names of the authors are not revealed.