Ryan Glasspiegel
Monday November 4th, 2013

Los Angeles Clippers v Golden State Warriors Rocky Widner/NBA

For a recent op-ed in the New York Times, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz conducted extensive research into the socioeconomic backgrounds of NBA players. Did certain zip codes or upbringing types better portend future success? From the article:

Growing up in a wealthier neighborhood is a major, positive predictor of reaching the N.B.A. for both black and white men. Is this driven by sons of N.B.A. players like the Warriors’ brilliant Stephen Curry? Nope. Take them out and the result is similar.

But this tells us only where N.B.A. players began life. Can we learn more about their individual backgrounds? In the 1980s, when the majority of current N.B.A. players were born, about 25 percent of African-Americans were born to mothers under age 20; 60 percent were born to unwed mothers. I did an exhaustive search for information on the parents of the 100 top-scoring black players born in the 1980s, relying on news stories, social networks and public records. Putting all the information together, my best guess is that black N.B.A. players are about 30 percent less likely than the average black male to be born to an unmarried mother and a teenage mother.

Stephens-Davidowitz provided two theories as to why this could be the case: First, he wrote, was that more advantaged backgrounds were more likely to engender the traits of self-control, persistence, and trust. Secondly, the nutrition that these individuals are more likely to receive is a considerable contributor to height, which is obviously a hugely important variable in this particular career. [New York Times]

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