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American Idol: Evidence on Same-Race Preferences


  • Lee Jungmin

    () (Florida International University)


This paper examines whether viewers of the popular television show, American Idol, exhibit racial preferences. We find evidence on same-race preferences among black viewers only: when there are more black contestants in the show, more black viewers are tuned in to watch it. The result is robust after we account for the endogeneity problem regarding the contestants' racial composition, which arises due to the voting mechanism. Our point estimates tell that a 10 percentage point increase in the proportion of black contestants increases viewership ratings for black households by about 1.3 percentage points.

Suggested Citation

  • Lee Jungmin, 2009. "American Idol: Evidence on Same-Race Preferences," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 9(1), pages 1-21, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:bpj:bejeap:v:9:y:2009:i:1:n:28

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Harry J. Holzer & Keith R. Ihlanfeldt, 1998. "Customer Discrimination and Employment Outcomes for Minority Workers," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 113(3), pages 835-867.
    2. Linda Y. Wong, 2003. "Why so only 5.5% of Black Men Marry White Women?," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 44(3), pages 803-826, August.
    3. Waldfogel, Joel, 2003. " Preference Externalities: An Empirical Study of Who Benefits Whom in Differentiated-Product Markets," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 34(3), pages 557-568, Autumn.
    4. Levitt, Steven D, 2004. "Testing Theories of Discrimination: Evidence from Weakest Link," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 47(2), pages 431-452, October.
    5. Becker, Gary S., 1971. "The Economics of Discrimination," University of Chicago Press Economics Books, University of Chicago Press, edition 2, number 9780226041162.
    6. Kanazawa, Mark T & Funk, Jonas P, 2001. "Racial Discrimination in Professional Basketball: Evidence from Nielsen Ratings," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 39(4), pages 599-608, October.
    7. Aldrich Eric M & Arcidiacono Peter S. & Vigdor Jacob L, 2005. "Do People Value Racial Diversity? Evidence from Nielsen Ratings," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 5(1), pages 1-24, February.
    8. Lawrence M. Kahn, 1991. "Discrimination in Professional Sports: A Survey of the Literature," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 44(3), pages 395-418, April.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination
    • L82 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Entertainment; Media


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