COLOR AND CONSTRAINT Skin Tone and Identification among Recent Immigrants to the United States Academic Article uri icon


  • AbstractImmigrants to the United States are assigned to ethnic and racial categories that often make little sense in an international context or are actively resisted by new arrivals. This study uses a large, nationally representative sample to test how skin color constrains and patterns that resistance, and how individual characteristics shape identification choices. Using the 2003 New Immigrant Survey, I find that skin tone has significant relationships with ethnic and racial self-identification choices for immigrants, even after controlling for characteristics like country of origin, with higher rates of Latinx identification among light-skinned immigrants than dark-skinned respondents, and especially high rates of refusing the standard racial categories for those near the middle of the skin tone scale. The racial categories selected by immigrants reflect not only their region of origin, but also their education level and their age, controlling for a range of demographic predictors. I discuss the implications for the racialization of immigrants to the United States.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 3.45

author list (cited authors)

  • Campbell, M. E.

citation count

  • 0

complete list of authors

  • Campbell, Mary E

publication date

  • January 2020