Latino phenotypic discrimination revisited: The impact of skin color on occupational status

Rodolfo Espino, Michael M. Franz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

161 Scopus citations


Objective. We reexamine the issue of phenotypic discrimination against Mexicans in the U.S. labor market, originally studied by Telles and Murguía (1990) and later by Bohara and Davila (1992). We also seek to explain this topic with respect to the Puerto Rican and Cuban populations in the United States. Methods. Instead of using household income as a dependent variable, we use occupational ranking scores computed by Hauser and Warren (1996) in combination with data from the 1990 Latino National Political Survey (LNPS). The occupational rankings more accurately reflect the level of labor market discrimination faced by individuals. Furthermore, the use of the more recent LNPS allows us to update the work of previous scholars and extend the analysis to two previously unexamined Latino groups - Puerto Ricans and Cubans. Results. Our findings indicate that darker-skinned Mexicans and Cubans face significantly lower occupational prestige scores than their lighter-skinned counterparts even when controlling for factors that influence performance in the labor market. However, we find no conclusive evidence that skin-color differences impact occupational prestige scores for Puerto Ricans. Conclusions. Using earlier data, some scholars found evidence for difference in labor market performance among Mexican Americans as a function of phenotypic variations among Mexican Americans. Today, dark-skinned Mexican Americans and Cuban Americans continue to face higher levels of discrimination in the labor market, whereas dark-skinned Puerto Ricans do not, which may indicate regional differences across the three groups that need to be controlled for.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)612-623
Number of pages12
JournalSocial Science Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2002
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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