Edited by Eva Marikova Leeds and Michael A. Leeds
Chapter 8: The goals and impacts of age restrictions in sports
Chronological age is frequently used as a proxy of convenience for maturity and competency (Sowell and Mounts, 2005; McCann and Rosen, 2006). Non-sport examples include laws mandating a minimum age for alcohol consumption, automobile driving, military service, and voting rights (Miron and Tetelbaum, 2009). Similarly, in the sports industry, eligibility is often determined according to one’s age. Sports provide a near-ideal laboratory to study the interaction between precocity and minimum age rules, as Bernhardt and Heston (2010) generally found that ‘sports settings provide abundant clean data’ (p. 14). Kahn (2000) posited that there ‘is no research setting other than sports where we know the name, face, and life history of every production worker and supervisor in the industry’ (p. 75). Kahn also observed that ‘professional sports leagues have experienced major changes in labor market rules and structure – such as the advent of new leagues or rules about free agency – creating interesting natural experiments that offer opportunities for analysis’ (p. 75). The imposition of minimum age rules in sport creates a quasi-natural experiment. Precocity has long been an issue in sports, especially in women’s sports, as young women typically mature physically earlier than young men do. Professional tennis provides several examples.
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