Sociology Faculty Publications and Presentations

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Colorism research often suffers from endogeneity issues related to human capital outcomes and researchers’ inability to compare the effects of skin tone to those of racial classification. Furthermore, colorism research focuses on intraracial differences in skin tone inequality while insufficiently considering skin tone inequality across racial groups. Using data from video broadcasts of the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s annual, single-elimination Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament for the years 2000–2010, we quantitatively examine comments made by announcers about the performance, physical characteristics, and mental characteristics of players across various skin tones. Controlling for objective measures of performance, we find that announcers are more likely to discuss the performance and mental abilities of lighter-skinned players and the physical characteristics of darker-skinned players. We argue that, although the two concepts are related, skin tone is not simply a proxy for racial classification. Rather, skin tone inequality transcends traditional racial boundaries.


© 2019 by The University of Chicago. Original published version available at

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American Journal of Sociology



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Sociology Commons



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