American Idol: Evidence on Same-Race Preferences

Jungmin Lee 1 , 1
  • 1 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.

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The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy (BEJEAP) is an international forum for scholarship that employs microeconomics to analyze issues in business, consumer behavior and public policy. Topics include the interaction of firms, the functioning of markets, the effects of domestic and international policy and the design of organizations and institutions.