Brown Outs: The Role of Skin Color and Latinas

  • Christina Gómez


Skin color has long been a topic of discussion among non-white groups in the United States. How dark- or light-skinned an individual is has been linked to beauty, self-esteem, and life chances. This desire for light skin has become so ubiquitous that a cosmetic product marketed across Mexico called “White Secret” guarantees lighter skin through a process of skin bleaching. These findings suggest that preferences for light-skinned women continue within the Latino community. The issues of skin color and discrimination against dark-skinned women of color have persisted in the Americas, as well as other regions. Latina women are one of the most marginalized groups in the United States; but not all Latina women are the same. This study hopes to begin a discussion that will broaden our understanding of racism and prejudice, how it is practiced, and what some of the consequences might be.


Skin Color Dark Skin Life Chance Latina Woman Labor Market Experience 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Acosta, O. Z. (1972). The autobiography of Brown Buffalo. New York: Vintage Books.Google Scholar
  2. Arce, C., Murguia, E., & Frisbie, W. (1987). Phenotype and life chances among Chicanos. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 9, 19–32.Google Scholar
  3. Becker, G. (1971). The Economics of discrimination. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  4. Candelario, G. (2000). Hair race-ing: Dominican beauty culture and identity production. Meridians, 1(1), 128–56.Google Scholar
  5. Carroll, J. (1991). Blacks in colonial Veracruz: Race, ethnicity, and regional development. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.Google Scholar
  6. Casal, L. (1978). Images of Cuban society among pre-and post-revolutionary novelists. Ph.D. Dissertation. New York: New School of Social Research.Google Scholar
  7. Castillo, A. (1994). Massacre of the dreamers: Essays on Xicanisma. Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press.Google Scholar
  8. Catanzarite, L., & Aguilera, M. (2000). Working with co-ethnics: Earnings penalties for Latino immigrants at Latino jobsites. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  9. Codina, G. E., & Montalvo, F. (1994). Chicano phenotype and depression. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 16(3), 296–306.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Colón, J. (1982). A Puerto Rican in New York and other sketches. New York: International.Google Scholar
  11. England, P., Farkas, G., Kilbourne, B., & Dou, T. (1988). Sex segregation and wages. American Sociological Review, 53, 544–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Fitzgerald, K. (1999). Who marries whom? Attitudes and behavior in marital partner selection. Ph.D. Dissertation. Boulder, CO: University of Colorado.Google Scholar
  13. Franklin, J. H. (1980). From slavery to freedom. New York: Knopf.Google Scholar
  14. Fuchs, V. (1988). Women’s quest for economic equality. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Gómez, C. (2000). The continual significance of skin color: An exploratory study of Latinos in the northeast. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 22(1), 94–103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hall, R. E. (1994). The “Bleaching Syndrome”: Implications of light skin for Hispanic American assimilation. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 16(3), 307–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hughes, M., & Hertel, B. (1990). The significance of color remains: A study of life chances, mate selection, and ethnic consciousness among Black Americans. Social Forces, 68(4), 1105–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hunter, M. L. (2002). “If you’re light you’re alright:” Light skin color as social capital for women of color. Gender and Society, 16(2), 175–93.Google Scholar
  19. Johnson Jr., J. H., Oliver, M., & Bobo, L. (1994). Understanding the contours of deepening urban inequality: theoretical underpinnings and research design of a multi-city study. Urban Geography, 15(1), 77–89.Google Scholar
  20. Jorge, A. (1979). The Black Puerto Rican woman in contemporary American society. In E. Acosta-Belén (Ed.), The Puerto Rican woman: Perspectives on culture, history, and society (Pp. 180–87). New York: Praeger Scientific.Google Scholar
  21. Kanellos, N. (2002). Herencia: The anthology of Hispanic literature of the United States. New York: Oxford Press.Google Scholar
  22. Keith, V. M. (1997). Life stress and psychological well-being among married and unmarried Blacks. In Taylor, Jackson, & Chatter (Eds.), Family life in Black America (pp. 95–116). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  23. Keith, V. M., & Herring, C. (1991). Skin tone and stratification in the black community. The American Journal of Sociology, 97(3), 760–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Lee, G. R., Seccombe, K., & Shehan, C. (1991). Marital status and personal happiness: An analysis of trend data. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 53(4), 839–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Montalvo, F., & Codina, E. (2001). Skin color and Latinos in the United States. Ethnicities, 1(3), 321–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Murguia, E., & Telles, E. (1996). Phenotype and schooling among Mexican Americans. Sociology of Education, 69, 276–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Nakosteen, R. A. (1997). Men, money, and marriage: are high earners more prone than low earners to marry? Social Science Quarterly, 78, 66–82.Google Scholar
  28. Portillo, Lourdes. (1993). [film] Mirrors of the heart. Americas Series. Annenberg/CPB. Boston, MA: WGBH.Google Scholar
  29. Relenthford J. S., Gaskill, M., & Hazuda, H. (1983). Social class, admixture, and skin color variation among Mexican Americans and Anglo Americans living in San Antonio, TX. Journal of Physical Anthropology, 62, 97–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Rodriguez, C. (1991). The effects of race on Puerto Rican wages. In E. Melendez, C. Rodriguez, & J. B. Figueroa (Eds.), Hispanics in the labor force. New York: Plenum Press.Google Scholar
  31. Ross, L. E. (1997). Mate selection preferences among African American college students. Journal of Black Studies, 27(4), 554–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Russell, K., Wilson, M., & Hall, R. (1992). The color complex: The politics of skin color among African Americans. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.Google Scholar
  33. Santiago, R. (1995). Boricuas: Influential Puerto Rican writings—an anthology. New York: One World.Google Scholar
  34. Sorenson, E. (1989). Measuring the effect of occupational sex and race composition on earnings, In R. T. Michael, H. I. Hartmann, & B. O'Farrell (Eds.), Pay equity: Empirical issues.Washington, DC: National Academy Press.Google Scholar
  35. Sprecher, S. (1994). Mate selection preferences: Gender differences examined in a national sample. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 66, 1074–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Stack, S. (1998). Marital status and happiness: A 17-nation study. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 60(2), 527–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Suárez-Findlay, E. (1999). Imposing decency: The politics of sexuality and race in Puerto Rico, 1870–1920. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  38. Telles, E., & Murguia, E. (1990). Phenotype discrimination and income differences among Mexican Americans. Social Science Quarterly, 71, 682–96.Google Scholar
  39. Thomas, P. (1967). Down these mean streets. New York: Knopf.Google Scholar
  40. Tomaskovic-Devey, D. (1993). Gender and racial inequality at work: The sources and consequences of job segregation. Ithaca, NY: ILR Press.Google Scholar
  41. Villarreal, J. A. (1959) Pocho. New York: Doubleday.Google Scholar
  42. Wade, P. (1993). Blackness and race mixture: The dynamics of racial identity in Colombia.Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  43. Waite, L. J. (1996). Social science finds: “Marriage matters.” The Responsive Community, 6(3), 26–35.Google Scholar
  44. Waite, L. J., & Gallagher, M. (2000). The case for marriage. New York: Doubleday.Google Scholar
  45. Waldfogel, J. (1994). Women working for less: Family status and women’s pay in the U.S. and U.K. Ph.D. dissertation, issued as Working Paper #D-94-1, Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy, Kennedy School of Government. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.Google Scholar
  46. Waldfogel, J. (1997). The effect of children on women's wages. American Sociological Review, 62(4), 209–17.Google Scholar
  47. Waldron, I. (1996). Marriage protection and marriage selection—prospective evidence for reciprocal effects of marital status and health. Social Science and Medicine, 43(1), 113–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Winders, J., Jones III, J. P., & Higgins, M. J. (2005). Making güeras: Selling white identities on late-night Mexican television. Gender, Place and Culture–A Journal of Feminist Geography, 12(1), 71–93.Google Scholar
  49. Wright, W. R. (1990). Café con leche: Race, class, and national image in Venezuela. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyNortheastern Illinois UniversityChicagoUSA

Personalised recommendations