The influence of schooling on performance in chess and at the Olympics

TitleThe influence of schooling on performance in chess and at the Olympics
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2022
Authorshorrillo, JDTena, Forrest, D, Varela-Quintana, C

At the macro-level, it is hard to test the hypothesis that increased schooling in a country will raise labour productivity but sectoral analyses may be tractable. In sports, output is homogenous in that countries’ achievements are measurable in the same way. We examine country performances at the Chess Olympiad and the Olympic Games, contrasting tournaments where players in the first use only their minds but most in the second supply substantial physical effort or work with costly physical capital. Modelling success in either leads to a set of results familiar from sports literature: country performance depends on economic resources, represented by population size and per capita income. Supplementary variables capture over-performance by communist/ former communist countries. We then introduce a measure of average years of schooling. This significantly reduces the role of income, especially in chess. It also takes power away from the ‘communist’ variables, especially at the Olympics. These results suggest that much of any effect from income is mediated through schooling: investment in education is associated with elevated productivity. Increased productivity is observed in both settings, one a knowledge-intensive sub-sector and the other dependent to a significant extent on either raw physical strength or expensive capital input.