Skip to main content

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

Abstract

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.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  • Armstead, C. A., Hébert, J. R., Griffin, E. K., & Prince, G. M. (2014). A question of color: The influence of skin color and stress on resting blood pressure and body mass among African American women. Journal of Black Psychology, 40(5), 424–450.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Banton, M. (2012). The colour line and the colour scale in the twentieth century. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 35(7), 1109–1131.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Baron, A. S., & Banaji, M. R. (2006). The development of implicit attitudes evidence of race evaluations from ages 6 and 10 and adulthood. Psychological Science, 17(1), 53–58.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bodenhorn, H., & Ruebeck, C. S. (2007). Colourism and African-American wealth: evidence from the nineteenth-century south. Journal of Population Economics, 20(3), 599–620.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Booth, A., Scott, M. E., & King, V. (2009). Father residence and adolescent problem behavior: Are youth always better off in two-parent families? Journal of Family Issues, 31(5), 585–605.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Brown, C. S. (2006). Bias at school: Perceptions of racial/ethnic discrimination among Latino and European American children. Cognitive Development, 21(4), 401–419.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Burton, L. M., Bonilla-Silva, E., Ray, V., Buckelew, R., & Freeman, E. H. (2010). Critical race theories, colorism, and the decade’s research on families of color. Journal of Marriage and Family, 72(3), 440–459.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cavanagh, S. E. (2008). Family structure history and adolescent adjustment. Journal of Family Issues, 29(7), 944–980.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Choi, Y. (2008). Diversity within: Subgroup differences of youth problem behaviors among Asian Pacific Islander American adolescents. Journal of Community Psychology, 36(3), 352–370.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Glanville, J. L., Sikkink, D., & Hernandez, E. I. (2008). Religious involvement and educational outcomes: The role of social capital and extracurricular participation. The Sociological Quarterly, 49(1), 105–137.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hall, R. E. (2008). Racism in the 21st century. New York: Springer.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Hall, R. E. (2014). Historical analysis of skin color discrimination in America. New York: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hannon, L. (2015). White colorism. Social Currents, 2(1), 13–21.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Harlin, R., Sirota, E., & Bailey, L. (2009). Review of research: the impact of teachers’ expectations on diverse learners’ academic outcomes. Childhood Education, 85(4), 253–256.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Harper, S. R. (2012). Race without racism: How higher education researchers minimize racist institutional norms. The Review of Higher Education, 36(1), 9–29.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Harris, K. M., Halpern, C. T., Whitsel, E., Hussey, J., Tabor, J., & Entzel, P., et al. (2009). The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health: Research design [Web document]. (http://www.cpc.unc.edu/projects/addhealth/design).

  • Harrison, M. S., & Thomas, K. M. (2009). The hidden prejudice in selection: A research investigation on skin color bias. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 39(1), 134–168.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hersch, J. (2011). The persistence of skin color discrimination for immigrants. Social Science Research, 40(5), 1337–1349.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hughes, D., Rodriguez, J., Smith, E. P., Johnson, D. J., Stevenson, H. C., & Spicer, P. (2006). Parents’ ethnic-racial socialization practices: A review of research and directions for future study. Developmental Psychology, 42(5), 747–770.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hunter, M. L. (2013a). The consequences of colorism. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Springer.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Hunter, M. L. (2013b). Race, gender and the politics of skin tone. New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Jenkins, M. D. (1939). The mental ability of the American Negro. Journal of Negro Education, 8(3), 511–520.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jones, T. (2013). Significance of skin color in Asian and Asian-American communities: Initial reflections. U. C Irvine Law Review, 3, 1105–1123.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kim, S. Y., Wang, Y., Orozco-Lapray, D., Shen, Y., & Murtuza, M. (2013). Does “tiger parenting” exist? Parenting profiles of Chinese Americans and adolescent developmental outcomes. Asian American Journal of Psychology, 4(1), 7–18.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kreisman, D., & Rangel, M. A. (2015). On the blurring of the color line: Wages and employment for Black males of different skin tones. Review of Economics and Statistics, 97(1), 1–13.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lareau, A. (2011). Unequal childhoods: Class, race, and family life. Berkeley: University of California Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Leong, S. (2006). Who’s the fairest of them all? Television ads for skin-whitening cosmetics in Hong Kong. Asian Ethnicity, 7(2), 167–181.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Monk, E. P. (2014). Skin tone stratification among Black Americans, 2001–2003. Social Forces, 92(4), 1313–1337.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Monroe, C. R. (2013). Colorizing educational research: African American life and schooling as an exemplar. Educational Researcher, 42(1), 9–19.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mortimer, J. T., Vuolo, M., Staff, J., Wakefield, S., & Xie, W. (2008). Tracing the timing of “career” acquisition in a contemporary youth cohort. Work and Occupations, 35(1), 44–84.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Moses, M. S. (2010). Moral and instrumental rationales for affirmative action in five national contexts. Educational Researcher, 39(3), 211–228.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Osborne, J. W. (2010). Improving your data transformations: Applying the Box–Cox transformation. Practical Assessment, Research and Evaluation, 15(12), 1–9.

    Google Scholar 

  • Perry, B. L., Stevens-Watkins, D., & Oser, C. B. (2013). The moderating effects of skin color and ethnic identity affirmation on suicide risk among low-SES African American women. Race and Social Problems, 5(1), 1–14.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pierce, J. L. (2013). White racism, social class, and the backlash against affirmative action. Sociology Compass, 7(11), 914–926.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pierre, J. (2008). ‘I Like Your Colour!’ Skin bleaching and geographies of race in urban Ghana. Feminist Review, 90(1), 9–29.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rondilla, J. L., & Spickard, P. (2007). Is lighter better? Skin-tone discrimination among Asian Americans. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rubin, D. B. (2009). Multiple imputation for non-response in surveys. New York: Wiley.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ryabov, I. (2013a). Colorism and school-to-work and school-to-college transitions of African American adolescents. Race and Social Problems, 5(1), 15–27.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ryabov, I. (2013b). The influence of co-racial versus inter-racial peer friendships on academic achievement of Asian-American adolescents. Asian American Journal of Psychology, 4(3), 201–210.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ryabov, I. (2015). Relation of peer effects and school climate to substance use among Asian American adolescents. Journal of Adolescence, 42, 115–127.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ryabov, I., & Goza, F. W. (2014). Phenotyping and adolescence-to-adulthood transitions among Latinos. Race and Social Problems, 6(4), 342–355.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Saperstein, A., & Gullickson, A. (2013). A “Mulatto escape hatch” in the United States? examining evidence of racial and social mobility during the Jim Crow era. Demography, 50(5), 1921–1942.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Shrestha, S. (2013). Threatening consumption: managing US imperial anxieties in representations of skin lightening in India. Social Identities, 19(1), 104–119.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sohoni, D. (2007). Unsuitable suitors: Anti-miscegenation laws, naturalization laws, and the construction of Asian identities. Law and Society Review, 41(3), 587–618.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Staff, J., & Mortimer, J. T. (2008). Social class background and the ‘school to work’ transition. New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development, 119, 55–69.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Staff, J., Schulenberg, J. E., & Bachman, J. G. (2010). Adolescent work intensity, school performance, and academic engagement. Sociology of Education, 83, 183–200.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Stanton-Salazar, R. D. (2011). A social capital framework for the study of institutional agents and their role in the empowerment of low-status students and youth. Youth and Society, 43(3), 1066–1109.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sumner, W. (1906). Folkways. New York: Ginn.

    Google Scholar 

  • Takezawa, Y. (2015). Translating and transforming ‘race’: early Meiji period textbooks. Japanese Studies, 45(1), 5–21.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Teo, T. (2011). Empirical race psychology and the hermeneutics of epistemological violence. Human Studies, 34(3), 237–255.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tran, N., & Birman, D. (2010). Questioning the model minority: Studies of Asian American academic performance. Asian American Journal of Psychology, 1, 106–118.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Troyna, B., & Williams, J. (2012). Racism Education and the State. London: Taylor & Francis.

    Google Scholar 

  • Villarreal, A. (2014). Land of the cosmic race: race mixture, racism, and blackness in Mexico. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 37(10), 1989–1991.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wagatsuma, H. (1967). The social perception of skin color in Japan. Daedalus, 96(2), 407–443.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wexler, J., & Pyle, N. (2012). Dropout prevention and the model-minority stereotype: Reflections from an Asian American high school dropout. The Urban Review, 44(5), 551–570.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wilder, J. (2010). Revisiting “Color Names and Color Notions:” A Contemporary examination of the language and attitudes of skin color among young black women. Journal of Black Studies, 41(1), 184–206.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Igor Ryabov.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

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). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11218-015-9327-5

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11218-015-9327-5

Keywords

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