Female tennis players and wages — politically incorrect paper of the day

by on June 25, 2007 at 11:11 pm in Economics, Sports | Permalink

Female tennis players play more conservatively and commit more
unforced errors when playing critical points.  Does this explain the
upper-echelons wage gap?

Here is the fact in more detail:

Women are significantly more likely to hit unforced errors at the most
crucial stages of the match, while men exhibit no significant variation
in performance.  Specifically, about 30% of men’s points end in unforced
errors, regardless of their placement in the distribution of the
importance variable.  For women, about 36% of points in the bottom
quartile of the importance distribution end in unforced errors, but
unforced errors rise to nearly 40% for points in the top quartile of
the importance distribution.  What is remarkable is not the difference
in the levels (men are more powerful and therefore more likely to hit
winners at any stage).  The interest lies in the differences in the way
men and women respond to increases in competitive pressure.

Here is the full article.

fustercluck June 25, 2007 at 11:34 pm

The entire premise of that study is flawed, isn’t it? What does the wage gap between the best male tennis players in the world vs the best female tennis players in the world have to do with risk-taking in style in play?

Answer: nothing whatsoever.

I would imagine the wage gap has to do with two things:

1) the high entry point for newcomers (minorities and women), given the fact that professional sports in this country were historically the domain of white men

and

2) viewership – now that there are some hot Russian chicks in short skirts prancing about, women’s tennis is getting more popular and thus the reconfiguring of wages where the prize money for women is the same as for men (for all Grand Slam tournaments anyway)

ASB June 26, 2007 at 1:19 am

Determining whether an error was forced or not is not 100% straightforward. In light of the black referee / white referee study of a month ago, a follow-up study on counting probably should be done.

bartman June 26, 2007 at 1:58 am

Tennis Player:

Tyler is suggesting nothing, he is not the author of the paper in question.

I would suggest, in accordance with economic orthodoxy, that the wage is more or less equal to the marginal revenue product. In the past, fewer viewers watched womens’ tennis, thus they got paid less. This is not true now, and the wage gap is shrinking or disappearing.

Another argument that has been made is that at the Grand Slam level, men get paid more because they work more (5 sets versus 3). So, in accordance with the paper in question, men provide both a better quality and larger quantity of tennis to the viewer. Perhaps this is offset by a couple of facts: women may be inclined to watch more womens’ tennis because it is one of the few sports where women compete on a stage as big as the men, and men watch for more prurient reasons.

Tennis player June 26, 2007 at 2:58 am

bartman- Bad phrasing on my part. What I meant is that the paper purports to explain more than the wage gap in tennis through its use of tennis statistics. See the opening:

Recent decades have seen a dramatic increase in female labour force participation rates, and a considerable narrowing of the gender gap in wages. Despite these advances, the gender gap persists – much of it due to gender disparities at the very high end of the wage distribution where women have made only limited inroads – the famous ‘glass ceiling’ of the upper echelons of academia, management, and prestigious professions.

This under-representation is not easily explained. Numerous hypotheses, ranging from discrimination to differences in preferences, have been offered. One particularly intriguing hypothesis is that women may be less effective than men in highly competitive environments – even if they are able to perform similarly in non-competitive environments. In recent research, I study the role of gender in responses to competitive pressure, using data from the world’s most prestigious tennis tournaments. This column discusses the results and suggests some implications for future research.

Tennis player June 26, 2007 at 3:37 am

Robert- you seem to be implying that people have to jump through incredible hoops to dismiss this study and that they’re doing so because it offers a convincing explanation of the male-female wage gap.

Really, though, this is simple. Just because you can run a multinomial logit regression doesn’t mean that your results say anything of importance.

For example: Maria Sharapova has suffered 3 blowout losses this year, in which she won only 2-3 games in defeat (Serena Williams twice, Ana Ivanovic once). No top 5 men’s player has suffered 3 blowouts this bad (probably most of the top five has not suffered a single blowout this bad). So Maria Sharapova is a mental midget, right? Looking around, the top women’s tennis players get blown out a lot more than the top men in general. I’m sure I could come up with a study proving this statistically if I had the data. Case closed: women players fall apart more than the men, right?

Wait! Women’s tennis doesn’t look a thing like men’s tennis. Women’s players have weaker serves, so blowouts are more likely as the weaker player is less likely to hold serve. Sharapova and Ivanovic play almost the same game and neither has much variety. If Ivanovic is playing the laser-beam forehand game noticeably better than Sharapova, there’s no backup plan Sharapova can switch to—she’s going to get blown out. This laser-beam forehand game is characteristic of the top women’s players (think Lindsay Davenport), so they are more likely to get blown out by a “stronger, faster laser beam† on a given day.

No grand conclusions required.

Tyler Cowen June 26, 2007 at 7:18 am

“Tyler is suggesting nothing.” Words of wisdom. They don’t always apply, but they are too often forgotten!

sa June 26, 2007 at 8:35 am

well said hodak.

brian June 26, 2007 at 9:39 am

I agree with Tennis Player’s argument. To win a crucial point, women must make a more precise, well placed shot than the male players have to. Male players are more able to just bash the ball at their opponent in a crucial point, inducing their opponent to make a “forced” error. When the female player misses with her attempt to place a shot near the line on a crucial point, she gets an unforced error.

Phil Birnbaum June 26, 2007 at 11:39 am

I (and others) have some comments on this paper here.

Floccina June 26, 2007 at 5:16 pm

I am tempted to say that the men get paid more because they are getter players but I think the real reason is that more men are interested in watching sports and that we like to watch sports for vicarious reasons and we males can relate better to male players. So men players draw bigger audiences. Perhaps as one poster said the good looking female Russian tennis players will change all that.

Steve Sailer June 26, 2007 at 11:25 pm

The real question is not why there are small differences between the sexes in pay in tennis, but why there aren’t big differences like in golf. The sexes are much more equal economically in professional tennis than in professional golf. For example, at Wimbledon and the U.S. Tennis Open, men and women compete in the same time and same place, just in different divisions. The purses are not terribly different in size. In contrast, the British Open and U.S. Open in golf take place at different courses at different times, with very different purse sizes.

I would suggest that the economic difference between women’s tennis and women’s golf is that the public, male and female alike, prefers to watch lithe 18 year old women in microskirts than stocky 35 year old women in Bermuda shorts.

Robert S. Porter June 27, 2007 at 1:56 am

I implied no such thing.

sheetal September 17, 2007 at 3:39 am

hi its sheetal from india shraddha a frd of mine is a brilliant lawn tennis player she is top 1 player of m.p. she has played nationals also and got first position in them. now she wants to play both national and international buttoday economically she is not in a position so if u pls help her to do so then it will be a great pleasure for us.
waiting for ur reply.
sheetal

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