On the Positive Relationship between Sports and Earnings Competitiveness, Confidence, Competence, and Leadership Skills
Linda Kamas and Anne Preston
It is well established that participating in sports is associated with higher salaries. However, while there have been suggested explanations, there is little empirical evidence to support them. This study uses laboratory experiments to identify personal characteristics that might be factors contributing to the relation between sports and labor market outcomes after graduation from college. We find that while participating in sports is linked to higher salaries, the earnings advantage goes to women playing varsity team sports in high school and men playing varsity team sports in college. For women, there are significant correlations between playing varsity team sports in high school and confidence, risk aversion, and leadership ability. For men, there are significant correlations between participation in varsity team sports in college and confidence, risk aversion, and competence. Unexpectedly, competitiveness is negatively correlated with participation in varsity team sports for both men and women. The connection between salaries and sports for women is linked to higher levels of confidence, leadership ability, and, possibly, teamwork skills. For men, competence, sorting into higher paid sectors and jobs, and, possibly, teamwork skills and networking are contributing to the higher salaries for athletes.