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The Obama Effect: Study Finds Educated Black Parents More Likely to Give Children ‘African-Sounding’ Names After His Election 

Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

What’s a sure fire way to boost the collective self-esteem of African-Americans? How about electing the nation’s first Black president? Ever since Barack Obama won the U.S. Presidency in 2008, scientists have noticed an uptick in positive self-perceptions among Black Americans.

But a boost in Black pride isn’t the only way way Obama has influenced collective attitudes in the Black community. A recent study conducted by two Texas A&M University researchers found that his historic presidency has also affected the way African-American parents name their children.

According to Science Daily, researchers Tracy N. Anderson-Clark and Raymond J. Green discovered that many post-2008 parents are choosing to give their kids more “ethnic-sounding” names.

Their report, published in scientific journal Ethnic and Racial Studies, states that the election of the first Black president was  “likely to have positively affected the self-perceptions of African Americans regarding personal and collective feelings about being African American.” This rise in new-found Black pride subsequently influenced the way African-American parents chose to reinforce that pride.

In this case, positive attitudes about being African-American were reflected in the names given to their children — a process Anderson-Clark and Green call “basking in reflected glory.”

The researchers came to their conclusion after analyzing the names of Black babies born before and after the 2008 presidential election, Science Daily reports. They also calculated the mothers’ personal and collective self-esteem scores, based on answers they gave on a questionnaire.

The results of the study were striking: Babies born after Obama’s election were given more ethnic-sounding names than babies born before the election. According to the science news site, there was also a connection between a mother’s cultural self-esteem score and how ethnic her baby’s name was.

“African American mother’s ‘Collective Self-Esteem’ scores were positively correlated with the ethnic sound of a child’s name,” the analysis states. “It was concluded that this difference in naming behavior could be viewed through a social identity theory approach and might indicate a desire to ‘bask in the reflected glory’ of President Obama’s election.”

The Washington Examiner reports another trend discovered by Anderson-Clark and Green’s study: Educated Blacks were giving their children more African-sounding names, a pattern reflected among poorer African-Americans in the past.

“These results support the notion that distinctive-sounding first names help to define identity for African Americans – the stronger the cultural tie, the more ethnic sounding the name,” the report said.

While naming a child according to one’s own racial or ethnic pride is a great thing, the Texas A&M researchers remind parents to be wary of the “unintended consequences” of giving their child such unique names.

“The ethnic sound of a child’s name may affect how the child is treated by others, such as teachers,” Anderson-Clark and Green wrote. “In reality then, the issue becomes a balancing act of choosing to affirm one’s racial identity through the expression of names while attempting to avoid the prejudice and discrimination that might be elicited through those names.”

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