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A Better Metric: The Role of Unconscious Race and Gender Bias in the 2008 Presidential Race


Gregory Scott Parks


Wake Forest University School of Law

Jeffrey J. Rachlinski


Cornell Law School

March 4, 2008

Cornell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 08-007

Abstract:     
The 2008 presidential campaign and election will be historic. It marks the first time a Black person (Barack Obama) and a woman (Hillary Clinton) have a real chance at winning the Presidency. Their viability as candidates symbolizes significant progress in overcoming racial and gender stereotypes in America. But closer analysis of the campaigns reveals that race and gender have placed enormous constraints on how these two Senators can run their candidacy. This is not surprising in light of the history of race and gender in voting and politics in America. But what is perhaps more surprising is how the campaigns have had to struggle not only with overt sexism and racism, but with unconscious, or implicit, biases in their campaigns. Recent research from social psychologists indicates that unconscious race and gender biases are widespread and influence judgment. Because existing anti-discrimination law is designed to combat overt, or explicit, biases, it does not address unconscious biases well. If even Senators Clinton and Obama, with an array of consultants and advisors behind them, find unconscious racism and sexism to be a stumbling block in what is nothing more than the most elaborate, grandest job interview of them all, then what must it be to the average Black person or woman seeking a job or promotion?

Number of Pages in PDF File: 64

JEL Classification: K30

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Date posted: March 7, 2008 ; Last revised: September 12, 2008

Suggested Citation

Parks, Gregory Scott and Rachlinski , Jeffrey J., A Better Metric: The Role of Unconscious Race and Gender Bias in the 2008 Presidential Race (March 4, 2008). Cornell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 08-007. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1102704 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1102704

Contact Information

Gregory Scott Parks (Contact Author)
Wake Forest University School of Law ( email )
P.O. Box 7206
Winston-Salem, NC 27109
United States

Jeffrey John Rachlinski
Cornell Law School ( email )
524 College Ave
Myron Taylor Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853
United States
607-255-5878 (Phone)
607-255-7193 (Fax)
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