Economist Michael Davis, associate professor of economics at Missouri University of Science and Technology, and psychologist Christian End, assistant professor of psychology at Xavier University, have co-authored “A Winning Proposition: The Economic Impact of Successful NFL Franchises” forthcoming in Economic Inquiry, which states winning sports teams actually increase the incomes of local residents and workers.
End has long believed that fans' emotional investment in their sports teams results in positive psychological effects. Adopting a team's on-field success as their own, fans "bask in reflected glory" leading to "a sharp rise in confidence in their abilities," and even their attractiveness after a win. Davis and End argue that when fans are in this positive mood, winning franchises give them the boost to "be more productive at work and shop more avidly, all of which helps the local economy." The bottom line is a $120 increase in per capita income. In other words, the study concludes that "all the psychic benefits of winning translate into a very modest, but measurable economic boost."
The study is limited to the NFL and does not generalize to other sports like baseball, basketball or hockey where identification with the team may not be as widespread or as intense.
So while just having a team improves the economy of a city fortunate enough to host a franchise, here is an additional benefit - other than bragging rights - of a winning team.
Note: Michael Davis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-341-6959