Thursday, June 10, 2010

Assorted thoughts

1. I noticed this yesterday on ESPN: "NBA gets an 'A' for diversity"

Sounds kinda like Justin's favorite practice-- measuring income inequality! And how do we measure diversity? The underlying idea behind grading diversity comes from The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport's grading scale for all sports (see page 15):

"Grades for race are determined in relation to overall American demographics. Federal affirmative action policies state that a workplace should reflect the percentages of people in different racial groups, as found in the general population. Approximately 24 percent of the U.S. population are people of color; therefore, if 24 percent of an organization’s employees are people of color, the group received an employment grade of “A” for race, and so on..."

If you feel measuring diversity is important, that seems like a decent way of doing so. I suppose perfect diversity would be equal percentages of all groups, but normalizing it the underlying demographics seems reasonable. But here's their comment on the NBA's player pool (see page 4):

"In the NBA, 82 percent of the players were people of color, the same as last year, tied for the highest percentage of players of color since the 1994‐95 season. The percentage of African‐American players remained at 77 percent since last year’s Racial and Gender Report Card. This was the highest percentage of African‐American players since the 2001‐02 season.

In the NBA’s 2009‐10 season, 18 percent were white and three percent were Latino. This was again the lowest percentage of white players since the 1994‐95 season. Asians comprised one percent of NBA rosters, and an additional one percent of players are people of color categorized as “other.” The percentage of Latino players remained the same as the last three seasons (three percent) while the percentage of white players decreased from 20 percent in the 2007‐08 season.

Eighteen percent of the players were international, which was the same as the 2008‐09 season.

NBA Grade for Players:
Race: A+"

So in sum: The goal is to provide the best grades for those leagues that best match the underlying demographics of the United States. 82 percent of the NBA's players are of color; rough estimates put the underlying U.S. percentage at ten to fifteen percent. Eighteen percent of the NBA's players were white; rough estimates put the underlying U.S. percentage at 65 to 75 percent. Asians are one percent of the NBA and roughly 5% of the U.S. population. Latinos are 3% of the NBA and roughly 15% of the U.S. population.

I wonder which part of that produces an A+ grade.

2. I got through most of Numbers Rule: The Vexing Mathematics of Democracy, from Plato to the Present on a couple of flights recently; it's very accessible and would make a great supplement (pick and choose what you like) for an undergraduate Public Economics class. It gets at the difficulties raised by what I believe to be the overarching issue of public economics: We live in societies and thus need to make some decisions as a group. How should we do that?

There's also a great chapter on the political economy of choosing the appropriate system to distribute seats in the House of Representatives.

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