Ethnic Earnings Inequality in Football
Seminar 4 of Trinity Term’s Sociology Seminar Series

Please join either in person or online. For in-person attendees, the talk will be preceded by a light lunch at 12.15pm.

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This paper examines ethnic earnings inequality in European football, a field largely unexplored in sociological studies despite the sport’s global significance. Utilising five years of data from top leagues, it investigates whether meritocratic stratification exists amid intense competition, immigration, and ethnic diversity, using detailed player metrics.

This paper examines ethnic earnings inequality in the top of European football. While sociological studies have previously focused on racial-ethnic gaps in compensation among professional athletes (i.e. US-based sports such as basketball and baseball), none have asked this question within the context of the largest and most lucrative sport globally. The professional football market is characterised by extreme levels of national and international competition, strong selection on (unique) skills, immigration, and ethnic diversity. It begs the question of whether these circumstances foster meritocratic stratification, as opposed to other segments of the European labour market. The study makes use of five years of player and club data from the top male football leagues of England, Spain, Italy, and Germany, totaling 11,000 player-year observations (2018-2023).

Crucially, detailed variables on skillsets, performance, fitness, context-specific experience, firm tenure, and ‘job tasks’ (i.e., positions or roles), which have been computationally derived from agencies and associations, allow for precise measurement of players’ human capital. The precise measurement of the primary stratifier of earnings helps in isolating taste-based discrimination (i.e., prejudice) from statistical discrimination. Additional analyses explore whether earnings gaps associated with ethnicity are correlated with various organisational structures, such as firm, club, institutional and league characteristics.
Date: 13 May 2024, 12:45 (Monday, 4th week, Trinity 2024)
Venue: Seminar Room, Department of Sociology
Speaker: Dirk Witteveen (Nuffield College)
Organising department: Department of Sociology
Organiser contact email address:
Part of: Sociology Department Weekly Seminar
Booking required?: Not required
Audience: Members of the University only
Editor: Laurel Quinn