September 07, 2005

Smallville: "Despite the fact that nearly 52 per cent of Americans live in large cities (over 500,000), close to 80 per cent of the country's athletes were born in cities of 500,000 or less." [via]

posted by garfield to culture at 11:13 AM - 20 comments

Well, the obvous question is, what sporting provision is made for inner-city kids? What opportunities do they get to play recreationally? I didn't think North America would be as bad as the UK for lack of sporting opportunity in the inner cities. I wonder if basketball numbers would be different?

posted by salmacis at 12:53 PM on September 07

I think another important question to ask is what percentage of a country's population lies within urban areas. I don't have the foggiest for Canada, the US or the UK. But if the ratio is similar to the 80/20 split, then there isn't much to talk about. However I suspect the ratio isn't that smiliar, otherwise the researchers from Queen's didn't do a very good job.

posted by garfield at 02:45 PM on September 07

Corn fed..

posted by ELWAY_FAN at 02:51 PM on September 07

At least for the American athletes, which is played in the article as if it were an afterthought anyway, I wonder whether the researchers used city of birth or city where the athlete attended (junior) high school. Because once you through NBA into the mix, no way are most of the ballers smalltown--some but not most.

posted by billsaysthis at 03:41 PM on September 07

It is strange when the place you are from and are so proud of is played as an afterthought, eh? [/embedded life lesson] bill, birthplace was the data set used, and relocation wasn't taken into consideration in the final findings.

posted by garfield at 03:51 PM on September 07

This is sloppy science/epidemioloy/sociology/whatever. The missing data point is the percentage of the American population was born in a city of 500,000 or less. Just because 52% live in large cities doesn't mean that they were all born there.

posted by mbd1 at 04:14 PM on September 07

Just because 52% live in large cities doesn't mean that they were all born there. Amazing. What consequences does your observation hold for birth rates in equatorial Africa.

posted by garfield at 05:19 PM on September 07

80% of the people on this page are not part of the other 20%.

posted by mayerkyl at 05:35 PM on September 07

Ninety per cent of all statistics are made up on the spot...

posted by owlhouse at 05:36 PM on September 07

It did use birthplaces and include basketball (along with baseball, golf, and hockey). I would also question what definition of "city" they were using (in other words, is their "city of Atlanta" the 35-county metro area or just the city proper, to take one extreme example)?

posted by silverpie at 10:22 PM on September 07

Pssht - You can use statistics to prove anything. 14% of people know that. My god, you're all smarter than the scientists... I don't see any problem with the data they've collected - it's the relevancy that I'm interested in. This can't be mere conicidence.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 08:05 AM on September 08

There's no problem, but until mbd1's question is answered, there are no conclusions to be drawn either. How many US cities have populations over 500k? If you knew that, you could get the total population living in large cities and extrapolate a fairly reasonable estimate of how many people are born in such cities.

posted by yerfatma at 10:41 AM on September 08

Garf, the numbers may be valid but that's not necessarily interesting (from a statistical analysis POV)--where's JJ when we need him in a thread to explain this crap? Seriously, I don't think birthplace is a useful distinction in understanding the question being asked here.

posted by billsaysthis at 03:44 PM on September 08

You don't? I do. It's not the whole picture, but given the importance of our formative development, birthplace provides insight into the origins of what it takes to be a professional athlete. (That is assuming that it is safe to assume everyone born in a city of less than 500,000 doesn't immediately move to a metropolitan area.) Now, if the relocation speed bump can be overlooked for a second, think of the dynamics of youth sport, and how these dynamics differ in relation to their scale(level of competition, facilities, etc), and I can begin to see how this is statistically interesting. Maybe that's just me...and some professor at my Alma Mater, and whose particular focus is on "understanding and facilitating the development of expertise and participation in sport and exercise."

posted by garfield at 04:19 PM on September 08

The population of the city where you were born (which is easily obtained data) is being used as a proxy for some unmeasurable parameters that influence who does or does not become a pro athlete. It's painting with a very broad brush. It offers some insight and is a good starting point for filtering out the various factors, but you can't really draw any strong conclusions for it. And it becomes even harder when you say that 52% of athletes satisfy a certain criterion without telling us what percentage of the general population also satisfies that criterion. That's all I'm trying to say. I'm sure Dr. Cote knows all of this and much more - and I don't expect the fine nuances of his research to be fully explained in a newspaper article.

posted by mbd1 at 04:47 PM on September 08

sorry about the jab. I see what you are saying. I think he used available information and came up with the best conclusion possible. If a funded study were feasible, I'm sure that would yield more, howusay bill?, statistically interesting results.

posted by garfield at 05:21 PM on September 08

The best available information to me says the Patriots will go undefeated this season--they're putting a whooping on the Raiders as I write this. That's another unfunded study based on available information. Not trying to be harsh but it doesn't make it useful or meaningful.

posted by billsaysthis at 11:07 PM on September 08

no comment

posted by garfield at 08:40 AM on September 09

You rang? Sorry to come late to the stat party. First up, there are 9 metropolitan areas in Canada with populations over 500,000: Toronto, Montréal, Vancouver, Ottawa-Gatineau, Calgary, Edmonton, Quebec, Hamilton, and Winnipeg. From 2000 to 2004, the percentage of the entire Canadian population living in those areas has been increasing slightly, but has remained in or around 50% (49.8%, 50.2%, 50.6%, 50.8%, 50.9% for the nerds). I could go into all kinds of deeper searches (the Stats Canada website is the sort I wish every country had) to do with gender and age demographics, but frankly, I haven't the time. On the face of it therefore, it would seem viable to suggest that there is some other factor is at work if 85% of the NHL players are from areas with less than 500,000 people. But then, although it may be the implication, it's not what is stated in the article. I'm going to say this guy is comparing apples with oranges. He says that "40% of the population produced 80% of the players" - but he's comparing a stat that concerns birthplace (80%) with a stat that concerns place of residence of males under 14 years of age (40%). According to his method, I would constitute an odd statistic in the history of Irish golf - 10% of the 1990 Irish Boys team was born in the Southern Hemisphere. At best, his findings are a bit wooly. Even if they are right though, I'm not surprised. Especially in a team game, there are all sorts of factors that would produce a better player from out in the sticks - a greater sense of community and family, a deeper resolve to find games and practice facilities (see Rocky IV), a better diet, cleaner air, a work ethos and physical strength derived from 'working on the farm' - all generalisations, but that's stats for you. At the end of the day, who pays for studies like this, and why aren't they hiring me? I have some very interesting theories about wave patterns in Hawaii that I need to sit on a beach for several years to test.

posted by JJ at 11:23 AM on September 09

I'd posit Canada and the US have different population dispersion profiles, to coin an unweidly phrase. And I'd think pro basketball has a different profile from other sports since it's so much easier to find facilities and equipment to play basketball in cities.

posted by yerfatma at 11:49 AM on September 09

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