Obama Boosts Black Test-takers

Published January 23, 2009

 

It looks like Barack Obama’s historic run to the White House is already having a positive effect on Black academic performance, according to researchers.

Because of what they have deemed the “Obama Effect,” Black test takers who participated in a recent study performed better on a 20-question test after Obama won the general election than they did before the milestone.

“Obama is obviously inspirational, but we wondered whether he would contribute to an improvement in something as important as Black test-taking,” said Ray Friedman, one of the study’s authors, in a New York Times interview. “We were skeptical that we would find any effect, but our results surprised us.”

The experiment used a sample of 84 Black Americans and 388 Whites, which is a ratio that is representative of the U.S. population. Both groups had test takers ranging from age 18 to 63, and both groups had the same variety of education levels. Test questions were taken from the GRE’s verbal section, and the test was administered four times during the presidential campaign.

Early in the campaign, before Obama’s overwhelming success was visible, White students performed better on the test than their Black counterparts. But when the test was administered during the height of Obama’s popularity, the performance gap was virtually zapped.

But perhaps the most telling result was that the Black test takers who didn’t watch Obama’s nomination speech failed to improve their scores at all.

 

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