Showing posts with label civil war. Show all posts
Showing posts with label civil war. Show all posts

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Political Violence and Bad Behavior in Soccer: Is There A Connection?

As a great soccer year is coming to a close, I thought I'd start sharing some of the more interesting soccer-related scientific research I've come across. Among the most fascinating papers I've read in the past 12 months is a really creative study by three political economists (Miguel, Saiegh, and Satyanath) about the connection between civil conflict (political violence) in a player's home country "and his propensity to behave violently on the pitch, as measured by yellow and red cards the player received."

The paper's story is straightforward: Since professional footballers now hail from all over the world, many of them come from poorer countries with significant levels of civil strife and political instability, while others were raised in the rich, stable, democratic countries of the West. The authors want to know: Does this matter for how they behave when they play the game? The answer seems to be yes.

Based on data from the 2004–2005 and 2005–2006 seasons in five national leagues (England, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain) as well as the Champions League, Miguel et al. find that civil conflict in a player's home country and affects a player's propensity to behave violently on the soccer field, as measured by yellow and red cards. They arrive at this finding by assigning each player a value for the number of years a country suffered from civil war during the period of time players were presumably growing up in the country and calculating the number of yellow and red cards the player received during the season.

The statistics behind the results will surely bore you to tears if you're not a social scientist, but the effect is nicely captured by a couple of graphs in the paper. Below you can see that, as the number of years a country has experienced civil war goes up, so does the average number of yellow cards per player and season for someone from that country (the bubbles show you how many players are from each of the countries in the study). Take a look.

MIGUEL, E., SAIEGH, S. M. and SATYANATH, S. 2010. "Civil War Exposure and Violence." Economics & Politics (in press).
To quote from the paper: