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Skin Color and the Perception of Attractiveness among African Americans: Does Gender Make a Difference?

Mark E. Hill
Social Psychology Quarterly
Vol. 65, No. 1 (Mar., 2002), pp. 77-91
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3090169
Page Count: 15
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Skin Color and the Perception of Attractiveness among African Americans: Does Gender Make a Difference?
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Abstract

Using data from the National Survey of Black Americans (NSBA), this study develops and tests a theory of gendered colorism among African Americans. The NSBA was collected by black interviewers and includes data on survey respondents' skin color and interviewers' subjective assessment of respondents' physical attractiveness. These data allow for a unique investigation of how skin color consciously or unconsciously influences assessment of physical attractiveness among African American adults. As predicted, results indicate that skin tone influences the attractiveness ratings assigned to black women in a compelling, monotonic manner. The association is significantly weaker for men. The gender-by-skin-tone interaction is consistent with the hypothesis that African Americans perceive fair skin tone as a particularly feminine characteristic. Findings suggest the pervasiveness of Eurocentric standards of beauty among African Americans. Implications are discussed in the context of American race relations.

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