Thursday, May 11, 2006

Freakonomics Falsehood

A commenter on Levitt's blog has challenged a central fact of Levitt and Dubner's recent NYT's column "A Star Is Made." Levitt starts the column:

If you were to examine the birth certificates of every soccer player in next month's World Cup tournament, you would most likely find a noteworthy quirk: elite soccer players are more likely to have been born in the earlier months of the year than in the later months.

But the diligent work of a skeptical commenter, Bill Loyd, has uncovered the truth. There is no consistent pattern. The data for 1983 cited in support of this thesis is an outlier. Loyd looked up over 1,000 World Cup players and found that the split was 51-49%. In many years there were more players born in the last half of the year.

Levitt has refused to defend the column and has (as of yet) also refused to concede the point.

UPDATE: Levitt has now conceded that the World Cup data does not support his thesis and provides some interesting data for hockey.

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