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Colorism and Health Disparities in Home Countries: The Case of Puerto Rico

Abstract

This study reveals the association of skin color with health disparities in Puerto Rico, a US territory that is home to the second largest Latino population in the US. Aware of the inadequacy of standard OMB ethno-racial categories in capturing racial differences among Latinos, we incorporated skin color scales into the Puerto Rico BRFSS. We apply both logistic regressions and propensity score matching techniques. We found that colorism plays a significant role in health outcomes of dark-skinned Puerto Ricans in Puerto Rico and that skin color is a better health predictor than the OMB ethno-racial categories. Our results indicate that Puerto Ricans of the lightest skin tone have better general health than Puerto Ricans who self-described as being of the darkest skin tones. Findings underscore the importance of considering how racial discrimination manifested through colorism affects the health of Latino populations in the US and its territories.

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Notes

  1. In Table 1 below we illustrate how most respondents located themselves in the middle of the skin color spectrum.

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Acknowledgements

Support for this research came from the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) at Cayey campus, the UPR Medical Health Science Campus RCMI Program, the Faculty Resource Network and the Princeton University VISAPUR Program. We are grateful with the editor and an anonymous reviewer for their thorough feedback. The usual disclaimers apply.

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Correspondence to Jose Caraballo-Cueto.

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Caraballo-Cueto, J., Godreau, I.P. Colorism and Health Disparities in Home Countries: The Case of Puerto Rico. J Immigrant Minority Health 23, 926–935 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10903-021-01222-7

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Keywords

  • Puerto Rico
  • Hispanic/Latino
  • Skin color/tone
  • Racial discrimination
  • Colorism
  • Health