Pathways to Skin Color Stratification: The Role of Inherited (Dis)Advantage and Skin Color Discrimination in Labor Markets

Maria Abascal, Denia Garcia

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Abstract

    Research has uncovered associations between skin color and myriad outcomes. What drives these associations? We develop a theoretical framework that synthesizes the multiple pathways linking skin color with life chances. Skin color stratification should be conceptualized in historical, structural terms: as the result of unequal treatment and inherited (dis)advantage, that is, unequal resources transmitted by families with different skin tones. We assess the role of two pathways— discrimination and inherited (dis)advantage—for Blacks’ and Latinos’ employment, earnings, and occupational prestige. We use the National Longitudinal Study of Youth 1997, which includes a visual skin color measure; multiple indicators of family background; and a sibling subsample that allows us, using fixed-effects models, to recover the effect of skin color net of family background. First, we find that darker skin tone is associated with worse labor market outcomes. Indicators of family background account for 29 to 44 percent of skin color’s associations with employment, earnings, and occupational prestige. Second, using sibling fixed-effects models, we find that darker skin tone is associated with worse labor market outcomes, but these associations are not statistically significant.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)346-373
    Number of pages28
    JournalSociological Science
    Volume9
    DOIs
    StatePublished - 2022

    Keywords

    • Colorism
    • Inequality
    • Labor markets
    • Race
    • Skin color

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Social Sciences(all)

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