Research suggests that a winning Chiefs team can do a wealth of good

10/05/2013 6:06 PM

10/05/2013 6:06 PM

Now this may seem a bigger stretch than Jamaal Charles extending himself to cross the goal line. But the theory makes sense to some economists.

After years of losing, a winning sports team makes us work better and earn more money.

Maybe a couple hundred bucks for each Kansas Citian, on average, by the time the Super Bowl kicks off. And another $140 or so if the Chiefs can win that one.

Doubtful? Hey, there’s published research.

One of the leading scholars of this hypothesis is Michael C. Davis, an associate professor at the Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla. And one of the cities best positioned to pocket a little cash from bad teams getting better is your onetime doormat, Kansas City.

Studies co-authored by Davis have tracked a bump in per capita personal income in NFL towns that climb from losing to winning.

How much of a bump isn’t clear. One analysis by Davis suggests a city whose team goes from two victories in a season — all that the Chiefs could muster in 2012 — to, let’s just say, 10 victories the following season could benefit to the tune of $100 to $250 in average extra income per citizen in the winning year.

“It’s hard to tell what’s going on,” Davis said. “Are fans who are in a better mood buying more or are they working harder? Or is it a combination of both? In either case, at least it improves the economy.”

The Kansas City Star reported on some of this research four years ago, when the city ranked among America’s most luckless sports towns. Turnabout is fair play. Suddenly we’re winning.

Four games into the NFL season, the Chiefs are undefeated. And those baseball Royals just wrapped up their most successful season since 1989.

What if Sporting Kansas City wins the Major League Soccer championship? We’re gonna be rich, baby.

Not so fast, experts caution. Baseball and soccer may be different.

Davis’ research has not detected an economic “spillover” when it comes to baseball teams finding success. Davis isn’t sure why, but perhaps rejuvenated baseball fans tuning in to weekday games become less productive at work.

Do less work, make less dough.

Or maybe the daily, up-and-down nature of baseball doesn’t lift a community the way a Sunday victory on the gridiron can.

“When your football team wins, that could mean being in a better mood for the whole week,” Davis said. “In a good week for baseball fans, your team might go 4-2. It’s just more lumpy.”

Many studies have documented links between improved moods and workplace productivity.

“It’s all pretty hypothetical … but it’s not completely implausible,” said Clemson University economist Raymond D. Sauer. “Look, the research is out there. Groups that come to work in a better mood might collaborate better, cooperate a little better, be more energized.”

Sauer, who is part of a legion of experts known as sports economists, added: “We’re a class of academics used to pooh-poohing the economic impacts of professional sports teams and publicly financed stadiums. But several studies do show this little boost in income (when teams improve). It’s not huge, but you’d rather have it than not.”

Some of the science to consider:

• A study published in 2011 in the peer-reviewed Public Choice Journal found a “positive, non-spurious and robust correlation” between the seasonal success of Washington’s NFL franchise and the work output of federal bureaucrats in the nation’s capital.

Researchers charted five decades of Washington’s winning and losing years and found that when the team did well, the number of pages in the Federal Register grew. That told the data crunchers that federal office workers were getting more done than they did in losing seasons.

• Maryland sports economist Dennis Coates, co-author of a 2001 study on postseason NFL games, was dubious of his own research into personal income gains in cities whose teams win the Super Bowl.

The average gain came to about $140 per person in the winning city.

Never mind that the game itself wasn’t played in the city that won it. Never mind that playoff cities didn’t appear to benefit.

“We found it hard to believe that finding,” Coates told The Star.

He said the authors reworked the data “and we never did get rid of that ($140) figure.”

“Are workers just happier and more productive? Maybe it does happen.”

• Xavier University psychologist Christian End headed a study published in 2009 that found college students who were in romantic relationships got along better after a game victory than after a loss.

(OK, that one is sort of a duh.)

• U.S. and European economists teamed up to check if the outcome of soccer games had any effect on international stock markets.

“We find a significant market decline after soccer losses” for the country on the losing end, they reported, but not necessarily a market boost for winning countries.

That last finding raises a chicken-or-egg question: Does winning really create more wealth, or is it that constant losing costs a city’s residents in ways Kansas Citians never knew?

According to Davis of Missouri S&T, “It’s possible you just lose income when a team is bad.”


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