The Obama Effect: Just Hype or Something to Consider?

A recent New York Times article discusses just how important positive and inspirational African American role models are to the black community. Researchers have coined the term “Obama Effect” as a result of a study which tracked and documented that academic performance gaps between African American and white test-takers virtually disappeared after Barack Obama was elected President.

In the study, certain character traits Obama projects – educated, successful, charismatic – inspired black test-takers and helped relieve social anxieties about racial stereotypes. Researchers tested African Americans and whites ages 18-63. The test was first given in the summer of 2008; whites on average answered 12 of 20 questions correctly compared with 8.5 correct for blacks. The tests given immediately after Obama’s acceptance speech, however, show that “black performance improved, rendering the white-black gap statistically non-significant.”

Earlier research also shows a link between lower test-taking proficiency and lack of self confidence among African Americans. In the last decade, researchers gathered black and white students with identical SAT scores and administered tests to them. Blacks performed significantly lower when asked to identify their race in a pre-test questionnaire.

Studies like these provide invaluable insight into the correlation between race and sociology. The black community is starved for the perpetual Obama Effect. Imagine if the Obama Effect, via a myriad of successful, educated black role models, started at the elementary level.  Would the performance gap even? The Obama Effect certainly extends farther than its immediate reach.

How might we leverage the Obama Effect in multicultural advertising?


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