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Productivity, Discrimination, and Lost Profits During Baseball's Integration

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 December 2010

Jonathan A. Lanning*
Assistant Professor, Department of Economics, Bryn Mawr College, Bryn Mawr, PA 19010. Faculty Associate, Survey Research Center, University of Michigan, E-mail:


This article uses data from Major League Baseball's integration to identify the sources and magnitude of labor market discrimination. Returns to hiring black workers in this industry were high, and the industry's labor supply was uniquely suited for rapid integration, yet integration evolved slowly. Many explanations for this sluggishness are considered, including both taste-based and statistical discrimination. Ultimately, only owner and collective coworker discrimination can explain baseball's slow pace of integration. The estimated levels of discrimination are high, showing the median team sacrificed profits of nearly $2.2 million in 1950 dollars (over $19 million 2010 dollars) by delaying integration.

Copyright © The Economic History Association 2010

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