Goldsmith - SKIN-TONE DISCRIMINATION AND ECONOMIC OUTCOMES...

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Unformatted text preview: SKIN-TONE DISCRIMINATION AND ECONOMIC OUTCOMES † Shades of Discrimination: Skin Tone and Wages By A RTHUR H. G OLDSMITH , D ARRICK H AMILTON , AND W ILLIAM D ARITY , J R .* By utilizing the Multi-City Study of Urban Inequality (MCSUI), a survey dataset that in- cludes information on a salient aspect of each respondent’s appearance (skin shade), we are able to examine four issues involving race and inequality in the United States. The first is whether skin tone differentials among blacks continue to be important in the aftermath of the civil rights movement. The second is the signif- icance ascribed to cultural factors in explaining racial differences in economic outcomes. Third is the conventional belief that there is a funda- mental difference in the understanding of race in the United States compared to in Latin Amer- ica. In the U.S., racial distinction is based largely on an individual’s genotype (ancestry), while in Latin America it is predicated largely on an individual’s phenotype (physical charac- teristics). Finally, we consider whether skin shade itself is an operative signal for discrimi- nators in labor markets. I. Race and Skin Shade With respect to the first issue, Aaron Gullickson (2005), in a recent study using the National Sur- vey of Black Americans (NSBA), concludes that skin shade differences among blacks no longer have much importance in explaining labor market outcomes. Gullickson dates the decline in sig- nificance of skin tone to cohorts born in the mid-1940s and thereafter. There are two major limitations to the Gullickson study, however. The first limitation is Gullickson’s attempt to exploit the longitudinal features of the NSBA, which is a high-attrition data source spanning the interval from 1979–1980 (wave 1) to 1992 (wave 4). Between the first wave and the final wave, the overall sample size declines from 2,103 observations to 644 observations. Gul- lickson makes no correction for the effects of attrition. Even more disturbing, from the stand- point of a study exploring the significance of skin shade at different points in time, by Wave 2 (1987–1988) the number of observations of light-skinned blacks had already declined to less than 20, and by the final wave there were fewer than 15. The evaporation of observations of light-complexioned blacks is masked by Gul- lickson’s failure to report summary statistics for each wave of the sample. Gullickson makes strong claims about what is happening over time with an inadequate longitudinal database. The second limitation is the absence of ob- servations on whites in the NSBA. This makes it impossible to address processes of labor market discrimination against blacks and, correspondingly, to determine whether darker- skinned blacks face a greater burden of differ- ential treatment in the labor market at large....
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Goldsmith - SKIN-TONE DISCRIMINATION AND ECONOMIC OUTCOMES...

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