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Race, Preferences, and the NFL

A new paper by Aldrich, et al., "Do People Value Racial Diversity? Evidence from Nielsen Ratings," has been distributed electronically by B.E.Press. The paper is available online to subscribing institutions, but guest access is also available.

When I read the title, I had no idea the paper referred to television ratings for Monday Night Football.

ABSTRACT: Nielsen ratings for ABC's Monday Night Football are significantly higher when the game involves a black quarterback. In this paper, we consider competing explanations for this effect. First, quarterback race might proxy for other player or team attributes. Second, black viewership patterns might be sensitive to quarterback race. Third, viewers of all races might be exhibiting a taste for diversity. We use both ratings data and evidence on racial attitudes from the General Social Survey to test these hypotheses empirically. The evidence strongly supports the taste-for-diversity hypothesis, while suggesting some role for black own-race preferences as well.

My priors: I'll be surprised if these results stand up to scrutiny, but I can live with them if they do. For now, though, I just don't see many Monday Night Football fans saying, "Oh, there's a quarterback of a different race from mine in the game tonight, so I think I'll watch football instead of CSI Miami."