University Study Finds that the “Obama Effect,” Producing Higher Self-Esteem for Black Children, Has Quickly Worn Off

In the 1940s psychologist Kenneth Clark demonstrated in a series of experiments that African-American children preferred white dolls to black dolls. His thesis that black children suffered from an inferiority complex was a key component in the evidence presented in the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case.

Over the past year Dorothea Braginsky, a psychologist at Fairfield University in Connecticut, has been replicating the Clark doll experiment. In May 2008 she showed black and white dolls to African-American children in the first and third grades. Only 8 percent of the children preferred the black doll and 46 percent of the children said the black doll “looked bad.”

Immediately after the election of Barack Obama an identical experiment was conducted. Then, 69 percent of the African-American children preferred the black doll and only 23 percent said the black doll “looked bad.”

But the so-called Obama Effect quickly has worn off. Only a few months after Obama won the election the experiment was tried for a third time. This time only 10 percent of the African-American children preferred the black doll. Two thirds of the African-American children said the black doll “looked bad.”