Race and Social Problems

, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp 181–197 | Cite as

Skin Tone and Individuals’ Perceptions of Commonality and Competition with Other Racial and Ethnic Groups

  • Betina Cutaia Wilkinson
  • James C. GarandEmail author
  • Johanna Dunaway


Previous research has shown that skin tone influences how individuals perceive themselves and others. There is considerable variation in skin tone between and among whites, Latinos, and blacks, and considering the role of skin tone in shaping racial attitudes is potentially important. In this paper, we explore the effects of skin tone on perceptions of commonality and competition among whites, blacks, and Latinos. Simply, does skin tone shape how whites, blacks, and Latinos view each other? Using data from the 2010 Cooperative Congressional Election Study, we explore the effects of individual self-perceptions of skin tone on racial attitudes. We find that skin tone has an effect only on blacks’ perceptions of Hispanics; light-skinned blacks are less likely to perceive commonality and more likely to perceive employment competition with Latinos, relative to blacks with darker skin tones. We also find some evidence to suggest that the effect of skin tone on blacks’ perceptions of commonality with Latinos is moderated by education.


Skin tone Racial group commonality Racial group competition 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Betina Cutaia Wilkinson
    • 1
  • James C. Garand
    • 2
    Email author
  • Johanna Dunaway
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceWake Forest UniversityWinston-SalemUSA
  2. 2.Department of Political ScienceLouisiana State UniversityBaton RougeUSA
  3. 3.Department of Political Science and Manship School of Mass CommunicationLouisiana State UniversityBaton RougeUSA

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