Race and Social Problems

, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp 68–79 | Cite as

How Much Does Physical Attractiveness Matter for Blacks? Linking Skin Color, Physical Attractiveness, and Black Status Attainment

  • Igor RyabovEmail author


The accumulated evidence suggests that lighter-complected blacks are more successful in our society than their darker-complected counterparts. Prior research also documents a correlation between physical attractiveness and socio-economic status attainment. The current study bridges the literatures on colorism and physical attraction and examines the complex relationship between skin color, physical attractiveness, gender, on the one hand, and three indicators of status attainment (educational attainment, hourly wage and job quality), on the other, for black young adults. Controls include family SES, family structure, parent–child relationships, and other covariates. Analysis was conducted in STATA and via structural equation modeling using MPlus software. The analysis shows that lighter-skinned young blacks attain a higher educational level, receive higher wages and enjoy better-quality jobs than their darker skinned co-ethnics. Moreover, the results show that more physically attractive young blacks, especially women, are advantaged in terms of educational attainment, wages, and job quality than their less physically attractive counterparts. These findings suggest that, among blacks, the skin color stratification coincides with that based on physical attractiveness to a large degree, with the implication being that the skin tone is a predictor of both physical attractiveness and social status for black men and women.


Physical attractiveness Status attainment Black young adults Colorism 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology and AnthropologyThe University of Texas-Rio Grande ValleyEdinburgUSA

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