Skin Color and Social Inequality: A Comparative Exploration of Race’s Multidimensionality

Stanley R. Bailey, University of California, Irvine
Aliya Saperstein, Stanford University

The comparative study of “race” across Latin America, the Caribbean, and the United States often highlights deep variation: from official schemes of racial classification to contrasting social understandings of categorical vs. continuous phenotypic variation. Yet scholarship on comparative racial discrimination and inequality suggests stark similarities, as well. In this paper, we draw on novel nationally representative surveys, most centrally the AmericasBarometer series, that capture both skin color and official racial classification schemes across a wide range of national contexts. Though it is often treated as such, we argue that skin color is not the functional equivalent to any of the racial classification schemes prominent in Latin America, the Caribbean, or the United States. Thus, we aim to compare and contrast their effects on individual socio-economic outcomes, and explore variation in the extent of skin-tone stratification and racial inequality not only within countries but also between them.

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Presented in Session 28: Rethinking Racial/Ethnic Distinctions and Measurement