Race Bias of NBA Refs

On Wednesday the New York TImes covered OB contributor Justin Wolfers’s paper showing:

White referees called fouls at a greater rate against black players than against white players.  … [There is] a corresponding bias in which black officials called fouls more frequently against white players, though that tendency was not as strong.

The NBA says its own study refutes this, though they won’t release their data to allow independent confirmation. 

Yes, Justin hasn’t actually posted here yet, but we continue to hope.  🙂

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  • The study is criticized here:


  • Stephan Johnson

    Without seeing the NBA’s data sets (which includes data on specific refs and specific players–which Wolfers’s study explicitly notes it’s lacking) this whole issue just screams out for a Simpson’s Paradox or, at the least, Absent or Hidden Data construal. Without knowing which ref called fouls on which player, there are other hypotheses consistent with the data. Add to that that part of the authors’ methodology relied on the memories (sic!) of former refs as to who was working what game and this thing starts to look a lot weaker than it’s playing.