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The Significance of Color Declines: A Re-Analysis of Skin Tone Differentials in Post-Civil Rights America

Aaron Gullickson
Social Forces
Vol. 84, No. 1 (Sep., 2005), pp. 157-180
Published by: Oxford University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3598299
Page Count: 24
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The Significance of Color Declines: A Re-Analysis of Skin Tone Differentials in Post-Civil Rights America
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Abstract

Skin tone variation within the United States' black population has long been associated with intraracial stratification. Skin tone differentials in socioeconomic status reflect both the inherited privileges of a mulatto elite and contemporary preferences for lighter skin. Three influential studies have claimed that such differentials in educational, occupational and spousal attainment have remained strong in the post-Civil Rights era, based on results from large nationally representative surveys. However, these studies used a period conception of change which ignored the potential for changes across cohorts within the same period. I re-analyze the available data and find significant declines in skin tone differentials for younger cohorts, in terms of educational and labor market outcomes, but not in terms of spousal attainment. These declines begin with cohorts born in the mid-1940s. In addition, there is evidence of period declines of skin tone differentials in occupational attainment in the 1980s. I discuss possible explanations for the declines.

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