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Race of the Interviewer and Perception of Skin Color: Evidence from the Multi-City Study of Urban Inequality

Mark E. Hill
American Sociological Review
Vol. 67, No. 1 (Feb., 2002), pp. 99-108
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3088935
Page Count: 10
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Race of the Interviewer and Perception of Skin Color: Evidence from the Multi-City Study of Urban Inequality
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Abstract

The influence of interviewers' race on skin color classification for white and African American survey respondents is explored using data from the Multi-City Study of Urban Inequality (conducted 1992 to 1994). As hypothesized, bivariate and multivariate results reveal a compelling race-of-the-interviewer effect for both black and white respondents: White interviewers reported the skin tones of black respondents as substantially darker than did black interviewers. In turn, black interviewers categorized the skin tones of white respondents as much lighter than did white interviewers. Results also indicate that interviewers perceived greater variation in the skin tones of same-race respondents than among other-race respondents, suggesting that both black and white Americans exhibit relatively limited ability to carefully distinguish the physical characteristics of other-race persons. Finally, results show that unsuccessful attempts to match interviewers and respondents by race may have the unintended consequence of introducing important attenuating biases into analyses involving skin color. Implications for future research are discussed.

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