Chart of the Week: The Rise of Latinos in Major League Baseball

Chart of the Week: The Rise of Latinos in Major League Baseball
Federico Anzil

Written by:
Federico Anzil

Apr 02, 2019
mlb demographics ethnicity infographic chart wide header

In 1947, Jackie Robinson became one of the first African Americans to play in Major League Baseball. After Robinson broke the baseball color line, hundreds of African Americans were inspired to join the major leagues. By 1981, 18.7 percent of MLB players were African Americans.

After that, however, the trend sharply reversed and in 2017, only 6.7 percent of MLB players were African Americans.

mlb demographics ethnicity infographic chart latin americans vs. african americans in MLB

The number of Latinos playing in the MLB also increased after 1947, but the upward trend continued even after the percentage of African American players started to decrease. In 1993, Latinos replaced African Americans as the second most dominant race/ethnicity in the major leagues. In 2017, 27.4 percent of MLB players were Latinos.


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Many factors can influence the decline in the number of African American players in the MLB. Some argue that a shift in preferences in this population group played a role. But demographic changes could also be influencing MLB demographics.

Clubs are increasingly looking for talent in Central American countries. Looking at the popularity of online searches for the term “baseball,” Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and Venezuela have the greatest search popularity of all Latin American countries.


MLB Demographics

The number of professional players from Latin American countries saw an increase from 0.7% in 1947 to more than 27% in 2016. In general, the number of foreign-born players reached a record number of 254 in 2018.

If you take a closer look, you'll see that many of them are from a handful of Caribbean countries. The following chart shows the number of players by country of origin, according to 2019 Opening Day rosters.

MBL-players-born-outside-US-mlb demographics ethnicity infographic chart

Five Latin American countries are currently providing a large number of MLB players:

  • Dominican Republic
  • Venezuela
  • Cuba
  • Puerto Rico
  • Mexico

Curaçao (#8) and Colombia (#10) are also among the the top 10 countries of origin.

If you haven't heard of Curaçao before, it has a population of just 161,000. (New York has 53 times more people than Curaçao.) Despite its small size, it has sent 11 players to the MLB since 2000.

5-caribbean-countries-have-de-most-MLB-players-mlb demographics ethnicity infographic chart

Since 2000, on average, there have been nearly four players from Curaçao at the MLB every year. Taking the population of Curaçao into account, this means that there are more than 25 players in the MLB per million inhabitants in Curaçao, while the United States has only three players per million inhabitants.

As the proportion of individuals that identify themselves as Latin American increases due to immigration, so can the public demand for players from this region. The United States of today has a greater number of immigrants from Latin American countries, so a plausible explanation is that migration patterns are also influencing the number of Latinos playing in the MLB.

What do you think is causing these changes in MLB demographics? Let us know your thoughts below.

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    About the Author

    Federico Anzil is an economist and data analyst. He is the founder of EconomicPoint and ZonaEconomica. His fields of research include public policy and social issues. He applies empirical research and economic theory to provide alternative points of view.

    13 responses to “Chart of the Week: The Rise of Latinos in Major League Baseball”

    1. jim neighbor says:

      Very nice work. Thank you very much.

    2. Jay Coakley says:

      Great visuals. There are balance of trade dynamics in these data. Latin players from poor countries can be trained and signed to contracts much more cheaply than any players in the United States. The often exploitive academy system in certain Latin American countries is cheap and efficient in terms of identifying and training players, and the players learn under physical and social conditions that prepare them for the difficulties they will face in the minor leagues.
      I am revising a textbook and would like to use your graph comparing Latin and African Americans. Possible? If so, please email ASAP. Many thanks–Jay

    3. william collins says:

      The question for me is this : how many US-born Latinos are on Major League Baseball team rosters ? I mean the 90 Dominican-born players on Major League Baseball rosters comprise approximately 51% of foreign-born Latino Major League Baseball players (176) are Dominicans. All 18 Latino players born in Puerto Rico are, of course, US-born Latino Americans.

    4. Dave says:

      Puerto Rico is not a country but a US territory.

    5. P Garcia says:

      Wow !!!… The ignorance is so overwhelming throughout the US .. Puerto Rico Is A US territory and American citizens.

    6. Jesse says:

      Whites are not having enough children and need to have more or put an emphasis on hard work for the few children they do have. When you get spoiled and rich work ethic and sacrifice suffers. Pitching seems to still be represented by Whites. They will
      Need to maintain this position like they do at quarterback to maintain any luck at all.

      • Romeo says:

        The comment you made isn’t interesting at all for its merit, but rather your generalized ignorance. Have you not learned that you make an ass out of yourself when you generalize an entire race and even worse, it’s kids? Replace your comment with any other race, and there’s an instant outcry for censorship as it’s obviously racist… I guess it’s fine though because you’re talking about white people and all those fat, spoiled, rich kids. Maybe visit the Appalachia region one day, tell me how many of those rich White kids you are able to fine.

    7. Matt says:

      I had a friend whose son played in the farm system and was on his way to hopefully make it to the major league. It seems like it was a long, hard road to get to the minors and even longer to the majors. Do you think it takes longer to make good money in MLB than it does in basketball or football? If so, I could imagine white or African Americans trying to go for one of those sports over making peanuts in baseball for a long time. Latinos from poorer countries, on the other hand, probably wouldn’t care about how long it took to make good money. For one, the money they would make in the MINORS is probably more than they could make in their home countries, let alone the amount they could make in the Majors.Also, baseball is considered boring to many here is the US and the NBA is in another golden era and maybe considered cooler. Do you think these could be contributing factors?

      • Mike says:

        The media hyped what it wants to hype. Baseball is still as popular as it ever was amongst young people. Thanks to media coverage and ESPN signing up to show NBA games, the NBA has picked up in popularity. You are looking at basketball from an inner city interest. If you go to rural America baseball is the sport more popular. Travel baseball is a huge industry, so your assumptions that there is a low interest in baseball by younger people could not be more wrong. The NBA game is not popular, but they do market their stars better. Baseball is a way out for those in poor Latino countries. They are easier to sign and for less money because they can be signed before they are 18 and are not part of the MLB draft. However, for top flight Latinos and other foreign players that have high interest the pay day is still good when it comes to signing bonus.

    8. Kkstar says:

      The numbers are misleading.

      Most of those “latino” players from The Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands are Afro-Latino. Mixed race. Would be considered black in the USA. Non white.

      So people of color are not losing their representation in baseball.

    9. Daniel Stone says:

      One of the primary reasons in the growth of foreign born latin players is the draft system.
      A US born prospect goes through the draft system, with the required salaries and signing bonuses. A non-US prospect dopes not… so many more can be signed for lower cost and groomed via academies.

    10. Macbaldy says:

      There’s a major misconstrual, major misrepresentation, in this presentation. “Latino” is not a race. Many latinos are black. Historically, South America received more African slaves than North America. Brazil, alone, surpasses the US in numbers of African slaves in their respective histories. Many of the Caribbean islands were recipients of escaping African slaves.

      Lest we forget, the Great Roberto Clemente was from the Dominican Republic. He was a black latino, and tDR has spawned many MLB stars. The parents of black MLB HOF Alex Rodriquez were Dominican immigrants. Cuban MLB stars are generally black latinos. Most MLB stars from Puerto Rico have been black latinos.

      • Deivy says:

        Roberto Clemente was from Puerto Rico not Dominican Republic (if you’re a true baseball fan you should know this). Also, Alex Rodriguez is not an Afro-Latino, most would consider him mixed race. Thirdly, this article is dwelling on Latinos by ethnicity and “national origin”, NOT race (there is a difference). There are many Afro-Latinos in the MLB but they are not African-Americans, the majority of these players are foreign-born and their first language isn’t English.

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