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Race, Baseball, and Fatherhood

Source: The Austin Institute

Does It Take a Father to Make a Professional Baseball Player?

AUSTIN, TX —As the World Series begins, the Austin Institute has released a new report entitled “Called Out at Home.” A leading resource for academic research on questions of family and social structures, the Austin Institute makes the case that the drastic decline in African American professional baseball players is directly related to the decline in African-American fathers in the home.

Utilizing large public data sets as well as original research, the report shows that fathers who play catch with their sons in the backyard, who take their sons to the ball games, and whose presence brings economic and social stability to the household, have a significant impact on the sport they choose to play. Though the rising popularity of the NBA and NFL has certainly contributed to the decline, this shift alone is an inadequate explanation of the exodus of black players from a sport in which their community has been such a profound historical part.

In addition to showing the connection between a decline in fatherhood in the African-American community, and the decline in African-American participation in baseball, the data also shows:

In this World Series, only 5 of all active players (6.3%) on both teams are African-American.
The large drop in African-American baseball players in the 1990s occurred about twenty years after the greatest decrease in marital births among black children.
Though it is true baseball is a sport the more affluent and educated are drawn to, the data show the effect of growing up with a father around remains even when we control for education.
Boys and girls are 25% more likely to play baseball and softball when they live with their father. By contrast, high school students living with their father are actually less likely to play basketball.
High school baseball teams are more successful in counties where, 16 years earlier, more mothers were married when they had children.
Anyone who has seen baseball movies from “The Sandlot” to “Field of Dreams” will instantly recognize the deep connection baseball has to father-son relationships in America. Yet the Austin Institute has turned what was perception and assumption into quantifiable data.This report clearly explains the decline in the number of African-American baseball players.

About the Austin Institute: 

The Austin Institute is a leading resource for tested, rigorous academic research on questions of family, sexuality, social structures and human relationships. From publishing new studies to highlighting thoughtful research of which the public is unaware, they create a more informed, intelligent conversation regarding sensitive cultural topics. The Austin Institute conducts its own research projects as well as analyzes data from existing survey projects.

For more information, or to schedule an interview, please contact Jake Wilkins at jwilkins@sbpublicaffairs.com or (703) 739-5920.

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