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Addressing endogeneity in marginal revenue product estimates of shirking in Major League Baseball

Richard J. Paulsen (Department of Economics and Finance, Commonwealth University of Pennsylvania – Bloomsburg Campus, Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, USA) (Department of Sport Management, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA)

Managerial Finance

ISSN: 0307-4358

Article publication date: 27 February 2024




While much of the literature testing for shirking by professional athletes have used performance metrics, some works have quantified shirking in dollar terms by comparing salary to estimated marginal revenue product (MRP). However, Ordinary Least Squares (OLS) approaches to measuring shirking by comparing salary to MRP have an endogeneity problem, as salary and contract length are determined simultaneously. We test for shirking in Major League Baseball (MLB) using an MRP approach, addressing this potential endogeneity.


This paper uses instrumental variables regression to address potential endogeneity using MLB season-level player and team data from 2010 to 2017.


Using OLS regression, the impact of an additional year of guaranteed contract on shirking is estimated at approximately $1m in 2010 US dollars, and the impact of having a long-term contract is estimated at $5m, estimates comparable to those in the literature. Using instrumental variables regression, these impacts increase to $1.6m and over $9m in 2010 dollars.

Practical implications

Given large, causal shirking estimates, profit maximizing sports organizations should take caution when negotiating long-term contracts. These findings also have important implications for other labor market settings where workers feel job security.


To our knowledge, this is the first work testing for shirking in sports using an MRP approach which uses instrumental variables regression to address potential endogeneity.



Paulsen, R.J. (2024), "Addressing endogeneity in marginal revenue product estimates of shirking in Major League Baseball", Managerial Finance, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.



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