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Colorism and educational outcomes of Asian Americans: evidence from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health


Using a nationally representative longitudinal data set, the current study examines the link between colorism and educational attainment of Asian American young adults. Three levels of educational attainment are used as outcomes: high school diploma, some college and a Bachelor’s degree or higher. Independent variables include skin tone, ethnic origin, parental income and education, family structure, parental involvement, family social support and others. Given the fact that colorism affects genders disparately, the analyses are conducted separately for males and females. The findings suggest that, compared to their co-ethnics with light brown skin tone, Asian American males and females with white skin are more likely to be college educated. Conversely, the odds of getting a Bachelor’s degree or higher are significantly higher for Asian Americans with light skin tone than for their co-ethnics with dark brown skin tone. All in all, the findings point to the pattern of the inverse relationship between educational attainment and the darkness of skin tone.

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Correspondence to Igor Ryabov.

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Ryabov, I. Colorism and educational outcomes of Asian Americans: evidence from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Soc Psychol Educ 19, 303–324 (2016).

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  • Colorism
  • Educational attainment
  • Asian Americans
  • Gender
  • Ethnic origin