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April 03, 2008

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Soccer fan

One could argue that what they are capturing is selection (genetic). On average, only the tougher ones may survive long periods of conflict.

gabriel

Dani..go to youtube and search for International Football Factories..they have various episodes on hooligans in various countries..including Turkey, Brazil, Argentina..

shehzad

This supposed increased propensity for violence may also have to do with the style of soccer played as well as the way in which rules are interpreted in various countries. What is a yellow card in one league may not even be considered a foul elsewhere--just observe how differently the game is called in Scotland, in England, and during Euro competitions like the Champion's League.

Jorge

It seems to me that if you remove Colombia and Israel the line will be flat.

Aj

Two comments/alternative explanations:

(a) yellow cards are also given out for diving. I have in mind Dider Drogba, the Chelsea striker from the Ivory Coast. He gets a fair amount of yellow cards for not being violent, but for diving at every opportunity.

(b) could the referees be biased against foreigners? If NBA refs are biased against black players (Justin Wolfers paper) then a similar story could plausibly apply here.

lance

i already hate this paper

Random African

I'm just surprised Egypt has such a low yellow card average..

Pablo

Dani:
in the text they mention that one of their robustness checks excludes countries "with long civil war histories (e.g. Colombia, Israel, Turkey...)".

Has Turkey experienced a civil war since 1980 that I'm not aware of?!

Pablo

Mariel

There seems to be a meme going around about violence and acculturation - Chris Blattman has a report from Liberia on the same.

Could this just be another example of acculturation? I imagine that being a successfull NYC cabby requires certain traits for success (traversing the city in some sort of meaningful time frame and also getting a spot at high-frequency fare sites). Don't these guys depend on the number of fares + tips to make a living? What I mean to imply is, the geography, politics (or at least laws) and culture of NYC create an environment that requires certain characteristics in order to succeed. Success (money) is an incentive. Thus, there is an incentive for cabbies to adapt (turn into NYC cabbies). Environment -> Incentives (economics) -> Acculturation (anthropology).

Societal, cultural, norms, including those of interaction, can be very powerful, but like all normative teachings, can be overcome and retaught.

Holger Siebrecht

how timely given last Sunday's bloodbath involving Argentina's worst soccer team:

http://www.lanacion.com.ar/deportiva/nota.asp?nota_id=1000120

Bill H

Pablo --

Has Turkey experienced a civil war since 1980 that I'm not aware of?!

Apparently yes. The Kurdish PKK uprising has claimed roughly 37,000 lives since 1984.

I suppose that there may be some definitional questions about whether or not it constitutes a civil war, but it has certainly increased the level of violence in Turkey, which seems to be in keeping with the spirit of the paper.

Winston

"It seems to me that if you remove Colombia and Israel the line will be flat."

That's the first thing I thought when I looked at the graph. The correlation doesn't seem very strong at all.

Pablo

Thank you Bill, I didn't know that. And since the figure shows as the most "violent" countries COL, ISR, PER, IRN, DZA, RUS, I thought that including Turkey might had been an error in the text.

Nina

Why does the difference need to be strictly cultural? I think that social norms probably play a larger role than "culture" in these circumstances. It would be interesting (if possible, and I have no idea how much data is available) to compare behavior of first generation players from those countries with a history of civil war to players whose grandparents may have been from those places but grew up in more civilly secure countries.

Dan Nicolai

Yellow cards do not necessarily correlate with "violent behavior," but rather are a function of the standards referees use, and the general culture of the game in a given league. Also, as someone pointed out, in some leagues you get a yellow card for "diving" or even questioning the referee as is happening every game lately in the UK Premier League. Plus the leagues vary widely in terms of country of origin i.e. more Turkish players in Germany than England, which has more players from Ghana and Cote de'Ivoire. I think if there is a correlation it is more likely related to the country in which the cards are being given, not the nationality of the players.

Dani Rodrik

I should point out, in relation to several comments, that Miguel et al. have fixed effects for individual leagues--so they take out the effects that Dan and others worry about. Also, the result seems to go through even when you remove Colombia and Israel.

jose carlos

a great example it is time for economists to be serious. a statistical finding can be explained by n theories. the question is not if culture matters or not, but the naive and irresponsible way researchers use quantitative data.

jose carlos

a great example it is time for economists to be serious. a statistical finding can be explained by n theories. the question is not if culture matters or not, but the naive and irresponsible way researchers use quantitative data.

Jorge

Dani, "seems" is the key word here. According to the authors "The precision of the coefficient estimate on civil war falls most when we exclude Colombian layers from the sample, but even in that case the main coefficient estimate is significant at over 90% confidence (estimate 0.0064, z-score 1.86); the result remains statistically significant at 90% confidence when both Colombian and Israeli players are dropped (estimate 0.0059, z-score 1.75, not shown)." (p. 10)
So without Israel and Colombia, the results are significant at the 10% only, with a very small parameter.

Joanna

Insofar as extended civil war is correlated with weak enforcement of the rule of law, the yellow card phenomenon captures not necessarily violence/aggression in particular but simply a culturally-trained (selected for? one figures it can't be easy to get on a national team in an unstable country) propensity to not care about the rules since the opportunity costs are low. I haven't read their paper, but this seems like the most plausible explanation of the finding.

Joanna

I've just skimmed the paper and I think the following:

1. "violence" is more heavily punished (i.e. opportunity costs are higher) in countries with higher enforcement of rule of law (where violence is also more generally associated with blue collar crime);
2. "violent" offenses while on the field reflect this prior calibration of the cost-benefit analysis (i.e. extreme disrespect for the law is not always a problem); general fouls can be both random error, which everyone makes, and small procedural infractions, which are tremendously common "white-collar"-type infractions that are rarely punished even in politically stable countries - thus in the case of the general/less extreme foul, the cost-benefit analysis is approximately the same across all countries.

I stick with the opportunity cost argument - here generalized to explain the results more fully. And the opportunity cost is calibrated by the degree of rule enforcement in the home country. This probably also explains some of the spread at the lower end of the scale (clustered at 0 years of civil war). I would try a regression against rule of law measures as a control.

kifimbocheza

did they control for Graham Poll?

Soccer fan

Yes, they have fixed effects, but they don´t have team quality fix effects. This is important because the vast majority of, for instance, african players play in the bottom half of the teams in a given league (with some exceptions like Drogba and Etoo'o). And those teams tend to be rougher and get more cards(substitute for quality). I would like to see how the foreign players perform when compared with other players in the same team.
Or the results when they look only at champions league, where one could argue that teams are more homogeneous with respect to quality

kifimbocheza

Nitpicking.....Two countries considered are Ireland (assuming it means the south) and Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland, with the civil war, has a lower average of yellows. Northern Ireland tends to have more native born players playing for them than the republic. The latter is famous for its use of the grandparent rule, so the team has had a large number of usually english born players - particularly since the 1980s. To complicate things further, Northern Ireland (as part of the UK though an independent football assocation and therefore team) is part of the OECD, as is the south.

kifimbocheza

sorry. my previous comment would have made sense if it was about international football and not league. I'm tired.

fester

Speaking as a low level referee in reply to Soccer Fan I also would love to see team effects and quality of player effects.

I would theorize in conflict torn countries, naturally talented players have a harder time maximizing their potential and thus are sorted to weaker teams. Weaker teams for a variety of reasons (tactical, morale, frustration, skill differential compensation) tend to play nastier brand of soccer that tends to draw more yellows.

Furthermore if players from conflict ridden countries trend to be less skilled and less valuable, the opportunity cost of accumulating yellows is fairly low, even if accumulation gives an occassional suspension or three.

And as a referee, unfortunately we are human too --- a team with a reputation of being assholes will accumulate over a season a couple more marginal cards than a team that is perceived to play fairly clean.

owinok

I think that Jorge's explanation (b) is a very plausible hypothesis because foreign players are perceived as displacing local players in the lucrative leagues. Who recalls that serious injury upon a certain Croatian player that a commentator attributed to his excessive dribbling a few weeks ago?

PunditusMaximus

Next question -- are the disparities being driven by a few players or by the team as a whole? Because I would posit that a team which is coming from a civil war background is more likely to have people in it who have fought in a civil war and bear the requisite psychological scars/mindset/etc.

That is, I prefer an individualistic interpretation. But mine is easily tested.

Frederico

Sure. Just look at serbians.

Sean

Why did they use per season instead of per minute played?

Sean

Ah, I see, they did (using aggregated player-seasons). However, one caveat is that some of those countries have so few players in European leagues that the behavior/role of individual players will start impacting the results.

Michael Bishop

i agree this isn't great evidence that culture matters... what are your thoughts on the study of U.N. diplomats accumulation of parking tickets?

Asif Dowla

This is one more spinning by the author (I liked his other papers) the yarn after getting unserved attention for the paper on unpaid parking tickets in NY. Like the parking ticket paper, this correlation is spurious and grossly unfair. Because a soccer player (or diplomat) misbehave, the whole country has to be labeled violent and corrupt? The Economist pointed out the US diplomats has the largest number of unpaid congestation charges. The more amazing thing is that the countries are able to produce world class soccer player, notwithstanding civil wars.

Bill Drissel

I don't care enough about soccer to do it but I'd guess a least squares fit would be nowhere near the red line but would be a nearly vertical line thru 0.
Regards,
Bill Drissel
Grand Prairie, TX

Bill Drissel

I don't care enough about soccer to do it but I'd guess a least squares fit would be nowhere near the red line but would be a nearly vertical line thru 0.
Regards,
Bill Drissel
Grand Prairie, TX

tom

The numbers of Israeli and Columbian players playing in Europe is tiny. The sample size is surely too small to draw robust conclusions?

chronos

Perhaps yellow-card fouls simply reflect high risk-taking behaviour. If players believe their team is likely to lose the match (for instance, if there is a large goal gap), they have an incentive to maximize goals while discounting the associated risks (there may be less to lose from yellow-cards than from actual defeat - depending on the team's current rank in the league or championship, etc).
I would have added variables that control for risk-taking (measuring the goal gap, field dominance or ball posession by the opposite team, the stakes involved in victory/defeat and so on).

Marc Yunnie

I am not sure how sound this argument is. Coming from South Africa, I am not sure how a figure of 5 years of civil war is arrived at. I see there another comment to this effect already from Turkey. I am hard pressed to believe that there is a real causal link between yellow cards and number of years spent in civil war since 1980. Also, to choose the year 1980 seems somewhat arbitrary?

blank

trash. why only non-oecd countries? why only since 1980?

the relationship is clearly driven by the two outliers in the upper-right.

Ben Kalafut

That's what we physicists call a "courageous fit".

Luis

Ted Miguel forgets that a significant portion of cards in football are not related to violent behavior. Some examples:
- Protests to the referee
- Foul simulation
- Intentional delay of the game
- Exaggerated public display of affection in a goal celebration
- Obscene gestures to the crowd and rivals
- Steal of the corner flag
South American players are experts in this kind of offenses. That's why Colombians are so well ranked in Miguel's research.

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Northern Ireland tends to have more native born players playing for them than the republic.;

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VRS

I would like to see how the foreign players perform when compared with other players in the same team.

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