Skin Color, Racial Identity and Socioeconomic Outcomes in Latin America’s Pigmentocracy

Edward E. Telles, Princeton University
Fernando Urrea-Giraldo, Universidad del Valle
Rene Flores, Princeton University

Even though the dominant tradition of research on socioeconomic inequalities in Latin America has focused on class and class origins while neglecting race, a growing body of literature points to the importance of race in shaping inequality in the region. In this paper, we examine racial inequality but instead of relying on broad ethnic or racial categories, we examine inequality using an innovative skin color variable based on an 11- point color palette that uses realistic skin tones. These data come from the 2010 America’s Barometer of the Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP). Specifically, we investigate inequality in education and occupational status among several Latin American countries using descriptive and regression analysis. To understand the extent to which Census-like racial categories mask color variations, we model the relative effects of color and racial identity variables on socioeconomic outcomes in several Latin American countries.

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Presented in Session 73: What Is the Role Inequality Will Play in Demographic and Socioeconomic Indicators in Latin America's Future?