Wealth plays a major role in whether a kid has a chance to make it from their neighborhood basketball court to the big arenas of the NBA. Both Black and white players entering the league are more likely to have come from wealthier families than those from lower economic backgrounds, according to a recent op-ed in the New York Times.
Seth Stephens-Davidowitz examined the social and economic circumstances of players in the NBA in 1980 and found that 41 percent of Black basketball players were born out of wedlock, 16 percent were born to mothers under age 20 and 7 percent to mothers under the age of 18. This data debunks any stereotype "of a basketball player driven by an intense desire to escape poverty," he writes.
The New York Times reports:
From 1960 to 1990, nearly half of Blacks were born to unmarried parents. I would estimate that during this period roughly twice as many Black N.B.A. players were born to married parents as unmarried parents. In other words, for every LeBron James, there was a Michael Jordan, born to a middle-class, two-parent family in Brooklyn, and a Chris Paul, the second son of middle-class parents in Lewisville, N.C., who joined Mr. Paul on an episode of “Family Feud” in 2011.
These results push back against the stereotype of a basketball player driven by an intense desire to escape poverty. In “The Last Shot,” Darcy Frey quotes a college coach questioning whether a suburban player was “hungry enough” to compete against Black kids from the ghetto. But the data suggest that on average any motivational edge in hungriness is far outweighed by the advantages of kids from higher socioeconomic classes.
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