Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Working Paper Series,
Research Institute of Industrial Economics

No 1176: The Educated Underdog Becomes the Ultimate Superstar

Per Hjertstrand (), Pehr-Johan Norbäck () and lars Persson ()
Additional contact information
Per Hjertstrand: Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN)
Pehr-Johan Norbäck: Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN)
lars Persson: Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN)

Abstract: We fi…nd an inverted relation between a player'’s birthday and the likelihood of receiving the Ballon d'’Or (awarded to the best football player in the world). We develop a multi-period skill formation model with selection into elite education. We show that those born late (underdogs) need to work harder to be selected for elite educational programs. However, those born too late will not make the cut-off. Those born late –– but not too late –– will thus end up with the highest skill levels as adults (educated underdogs). We use detailed data on the performance of elite Swedish football players to illustrate our model. These data provide strong support for the predictions of the model.

Keywords: Superstar; Skill formation; Expertise; Relative age effect; Football; Elite education

JEL-codes: D10; I20; J70; M50; Z20

47 pages, June 22, 2017

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