Pathways to Skin Tone Stratification: The Role of Inherited (Dis)Advantage and Skin Tone Discrimination in Labor Markets (with D. Garcia)

Research has uncovered associations between skin color and myriad outcomes, including labor market outcomes. What drives these associations? This paper develops a theoretical framework that synthesizes the multiple pathways linking skin color with life chances. We argue that skin tone stratification should be conceptualized in historical, structural terms: as the result of both unequal treatment in the present day and inherited (dis)advantage, i.e., unequal resources transmitted by families with different skin tones. We assess the role of both pathways––discrimination and inherited (dis)advantage––for Blacks’ and Latinos’ employment, earnings, and occupational prestige. The analyses use the National Longitudinal Study of Youth 1997, which has important strengths, including a fine-grained, 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. Basic indicators of family background account for 25% to 32% of skin color’s associations with employment and earnings. By contrast, siblings with different skin tones do not attain significantly different outcomes, with the exception of occupational status among Latinos. In sum, our findings suggest that we pay attention to the multiple pathways through which skin color and life chances are linked.

Greater Diversity or Fewer Whites? Disentangling Heterogeneity and Non-White Share at Macro and Micro Levels (with F. Ganter and D. Baldassarri) Available on SocArXiv

Scholarship on the consequences of racial/ethnic diversity often claims that diversity undermines trust, participation and cooperation. This work has been criticized for its inability to discern the causal effects of diversity. We draw attention to a more elementary issue: most studies are unable to interpret associations between their outcomes of interest and diversity, as these may be due to associations with non-White or immigrant shares. We make the practical and theoretical case for preserving the distinction between diversity—i.e., mixture—and non-White or immigrant shares—e.g., percentage Black or percentage foreign-born—, and we warn scholars about the dangers of using language and measures associated with diversity, especially in contexts, like North America and Europe, where diversity strongly overlaps with non-White or immigrant shares. On a practical front, the policy recommendations that follow from the claim “greater diversity is associated with less prosociality” are different from those that follow from the claim “greater non-White share is associated with less prosociality among Whites.” On a theoretical front, most studies of diversity rely on theories that are predicated on ingroup/outgroup shares—most commonly intergroup conflict/threat theory—rather than on diversity; the predictions implied by popular theories, however, contradict those implied by claims about diversity. Importantly, two empirical obstacles undermine our capacity to disentangle associations with diversity from associations with non-White or immigrant shares. The first stems from the underrepresentation of predominately non-White (or predominately immigrant) communities in the real world. The second concerns our ability to infer that individual attitudes and behavior are correlated with diversity from correlations between macro-level outcomes and diversity. Finally, we spell out the kinds of data required to draw empirically sound conclusions about associations between diversity and social outcomes.

Know it When you See it? The Properties of the Communities People Describe as “Diverse” (or not) (with F. Ganter) Available on SocArXiv

The term “diversity” is widely used in both interpersonal and institutional discourse, yet the meanings assigned to this term are complicated and sometimes contradictory. As a descriptor, “diversity” may refer to multiple types of difference—ethnoracial, socioeconomic, etc. Even when diversity is pinned to one type of difference—for example, ethnoracial—it may refer to heterogeneity, i.e., mixture, or to the representation of disadvantaged groups, e.g., Blacks. This paper explores how people understand diversity by uncovering the properties of the communities people describe as “diverse.” Is perceived diversity associated only with the ethnoracial properties of communities, or is it also associated with their economic properties (and under what conditions)? Does perceived diversity more closely track heterogeneity or the representation of disadvantaged groups? To answer these questions, this study analyzes a unique survey of Chicago metro area residents who were asked if they would say their town or neighborhood “is a diverse place.” Geocoded data enable us to investigate what people mean by diversity, not when they define diversity in the abstract, but when they use the term to describe real-world communities.