UNDER REVIEW AND IN PROGRESS
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.