The Jackie (and Jill) Robinson Effect

by Patrick Appel

Tony Dokoupil points to research finding that female members of the House outperform their male counterparts. The reason:

If women are, as a matter of fact, the country's most persuasive and productive politicians, why do more than one in five Americans still openly admit they wouldn't vote for a female president, or would do so only with reservations? But in fact, says Berry, the two trends fit together handily. "If it's harder for women to succeed in politics," he says, "then those that do succeed are likely to be the most talented and hard working."

It's called "The Jackie (and Jill) Robinson Effect," as the AJPS paper is titled, a reference to the first black player in Major League Baseball who, not coincidentally, was one of best ballplayers of all time. Black players continued to outperform their white peers for decades after integration because, with latent racism still very much a part of baseball’s culture, you had to be better than average to measure up. Over time, of course, that performance gap between white and black players evaporated as race-based obstacles fell away. But in the short term, teams like the Dodgers, which won six pennants and a World Series with Robinson, benefited greatly.