Why Skin Color Captures Inequality Better Than Census Ethnoracial Identification in Latin America

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 3:42 PM
Room: 417
Oral Presentation
Fernando URREA-GIRALDO , Universidad del Valle, Cali, Colombia
Edward TELLES , Sociology, Sociology Department, Princeton, NJ
René FLORES , Phd Student Princeton University, Princeton, NJ
Why Skin Color Captures Inequality Better than Census Ethnoracial Identification in Latin America

Edward Telles*, René D. Flores* and Fernando Urrea-Giraldo**

* Princeton University

** Universidad del Valle (Colombia)

For the first time in modern history and with the region’s turn to multiculturalism, most Latin American censuses now ask respondents to identify by race or ethnicity. These new data allow researchers to systematically examine ethnoracial inequalities, which have long been ignored or denied.  However, reliance on census ethnoracial categories could be problematic because of classification ambiguity in the region and because the categories themselves may hide racial heterogeneity. To overcome this, we modeled the relation between skin color as well as census ethnoracial categories and educational inequality, using innovative data from the 2010 America’s Barometer from the Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP) and 2010 surveys from the Project on Ethnicity and Race in Latin America (PERLA). We found that skin color was strongly related to educational inequality in all examined nations (Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico and Peru), even after controlling for parental occupation and other factors. On the other hand, ethnoracial identification was a weaker and less consistent predictor.