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How can the multiplier be used to analyze the economic impact of professional sports?

Attracting professional sports teams and building sports stadiums to create jobs and stimulate business growth is an economic development strategy adopted by many communities throughout the United States. In his recent article, “Public Financing of Private Sports Stadiums,” James Joyner of Outside the Beltway looked at public financing for NFL teams. Joyner’s findings confirm the earlier work of John Siegfried of Vanderbilt University and Andrew Zimbalist of Smith College.

Siegfried and Zimbalist used the multiplier to analyze this issue. They considered the amount of taxes paid and dollars spent locally to see if there was a positive multiplier effect. Since most professional athletes and owners of sports teams are rich enough to owe a lot of taxes, let’s say that 40% of any marginal income they earn is paid in taxes. Because athletes are often high earners with short careers, let’s assume that they save one-third of their after-tax income.

However, many professional athletes do not live year-round in the city in which they play, so let’s say that one-half of the money that they do spend is spent outside the local area. One can think of spending outside a local economy, in this example, as the equivalent of imported goods for the national economy.

Now, consider the impact of money spent at local entertainment venues other than professional sports. While the owners of these other businesses may be comfortably middle-income, few of them are in the economic stratosphere of professional athletes. Because their incomes are lower, so are their taxes; say that they pay only 35% of their marginal income in taxes. They do not have the same ability, or need, to save as much as professional athletes, so let’s assume their MPC is just 0.8. Finally, because more of them live locally, they will spend a higher proportion of their income on local goods—say, 65%.

If these general assumptions hold true, then money spent on professional sports will have less local economic impact than money spent on other forms of entertainment. For professional athletes, out of a dollar earned, 40 cents goes to taxes, leaving 60 cents. Of that 60 cents, one-third is saved, leaving 40 cents, and half is spent outside the area, leaving 20 cents. Only 20 cents of each dollar is cycled into the local economy in the first round. For locally-owned entertainment, out of a dollar earned, 35 cents goes to taxes, leaving 65 cents. Of the rest, 20% is saved, leaving 52 cents, and of that amount, 65% is spent in the local area, so that 33.8 cents of each dollar of income is recycled into the local economy.

Siegfried and Zimbalist make the plausible argument that, within their household budgets, people have a fixed amount to spend on entertainment. If this assumption holds true, then money spent attending professional sports events is money that was not spent on other entertainment options in a given metropolitan area. Since the multiplier is lower for professional sports than for other local entertainment options, the arrival of professional sports to a city would reallocate entertainment spending in a way that causes the local economy to shrink, rather than to grow. Thus, their findings seem to confirm what Joyner reports and what newspapers across the country are reporting. A quick Internet search for “economic impact of sports” will yield numerous reports questioning this economic development strategy.

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Source:  OpenStax, Principles of macroeconomics for ap® courses. OpenStax CNX. Aug 24, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11864/1.2
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