Group Sorting and Race in the NFL

Fascinating long read by Jason Reid on race in the NFL, which is 70% African American. It looks at the statistical breakdown of the race of players at certain positions, drawing from Malcolm Gladwell’s work on group sorting and perceptions. It also discusses the ways in which certain positions tend to have more black players and than white players and vice versa. While it touches on the institutional racism of the NFL’s early days and the unofficial ban well into the 1980s on African-American players being at center or quarterback, it also explores how coaches search for patterns in players, so much so that it’s hard to find a white tailback now. Reid’s tone is measured, exploring the current pattern without trying to draw a specific conclusion about what the data is showing.

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Predictive Data and Who Will Finish College

Fascinating article in the NYTimes in how big data can explore how making a certain grade in a lower level course, such as composition, can predict whether or not you graduate. Data analysis can’t tell you why a student makes a certain grade–it could be preparation or messy life issues–but it definitely seems to highlight what classes are indicative of successful completion of an undergraduate degree.