Does race affect who gets voted off AMERICAN IDOL?

This study examines whether viewers of the popular television show, American Idol, are racially biased. I find strong evidence for same-race preferences, in particular among black viewers. Featuring more black contestants attracts more black households to tune in to watch the show. And, with more black viewers, a black contestant is less likely to be voted off.

Source: “American Idol: Evidence of Same-Race Preferences?” (February 2006). IZA Discussion Paper No. 1974

Along similar lines:

Using data on Nielsen ratings for locally televised NBA basketball games, we find strong evidence that viewership increases when there is greater participation by white players. This finding controls for a wide variety of other factors that could systematically affect Nielsen ratings, and signifies the presence of customer discrimination in the market for NBA players. We also find that higher Nielsen ratings allow NBA teams to realize greater advertising revenues, meaning that the marginal revenue product of white players exceeds that of comparable black players. This factor explains much of the race-based salary gap that exists in professional basketball.

Source: “Racial Discrimination in Professional Basketball: Evidence from Nielsen Ratings” Economic Inquiry, Oxford University Press, vol. 39(4), pages 599-608, October.

Interestingly, race doesn’t affect teamwork on the court in the NBA but it does influence MLB umpires.

I did a deeper dive on the subject of discrimination here.

I’m curious to read this book: Race: How Blacks and Whites Think and Feel About the American Obsession. It’s by Studs Terkel, author of the classic, Working.

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