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The Tones of Democratic Challenges: Skin Color and Race in Mexico

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In this paper I analyze the effect of skin tone and racial identity on Mexicans' political attitudes. I also test different intergroup conflict theories to assess which one explains Mexico's situation better if we look at skin tone and racial identification as independent variables. In order to test my hypotheses I use the Americas Barometer data from Mexico 2010 that includes a measure of respondents' skin tone. The results show that people's skin tone not only affects their political attitudes but their income as well, once controlling for education, age and gender. Moreover, the theory of social identity explains better the Mexican case than other theories. The conclusions show that Mexico's democracy faces the challenge of political inclusion of all its citizens regardless of their skin tone or racial identification.
... Meanwhile, the literature reports that people with darker skin tones have systematically lower educational attainment and lower earnings than those with lighter skin tones (Campos-Vázquez and Medina-Cortina 2019; Flores & Telles, 2012;Telles, 2014;Villarreal, 2010). At the same time, they are more likely to report having been discriminated against than the other population groups (Aguilar, 2011). ...
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We document the contribution of skin color toward quantifying inequality of opportunity over a proxy indicator of wealth. Our Ferreira–Gignoux estimates of inequality of opportunity as a share of total wealth inequality show that once parental wealth is included as a circumstance variable, the share of inequality of opportunity rises above 40%, overall and for every age cohort. By contrast, the contribution of skin tone to total inequality of opportunity remains minor throughout.
... Using experimental data, Campos-Vázquez and Medina-Cortina (2018) show that skin colour stereotypes have a negative effect on life achievement expectations of female teenagers in middle school. Meanwhile, the literature reports that people with darker skin tones have systematically lower educational attainment and lower earnings than those with lighter skin tones (Flores and Telles, 2012;Telles, 2014 andVillarreal, 2010) while they are more likely to report having been discriminated than the other population groups (Aguilar, 2011). ...
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Using a nationally representative survey on intergenerational social mobility for Mexico, we document the role of skin colour in quantifying social mobility and inequality of opportunity in wealth. Using transition matrices and rank regressions we find differential patterns of relative social mobility by skin colour at the tails, with lighter skin tones featuring relatively more upward mobility and less downward mobility than darker tones. Meanwhile, our Ferreira-Gignoux estimates of inequality of opportunity as a share of total wealth inequality show that once parental wealth is included as a circumstance variable, the share of inequality of opportunity rises above 40 per cent. By contrast, the contribution of skin tone to total inequality remains minor, whether we consider parental background variables in the estimation or not.
... 1 This practice results from an ideology of mestizaje, or racial mixing, which promotes the idea that stratification is driven only by class and wealth and not by skin color (González Casanova 1965). However, this assumption has recently been challenged: new data sources that include skin color show its relevance to life outcomes throughout Latin America, including in Mexico (Aguilar 2011;Arceo-Gomez and Campos-Vazquez 2014;Flores and Telles 2012;Telles 2014;Telles and Bailey 2013;Telles and Sue 2009;Telles et al. 2015;Trejo and Altamirano 2016;Villarreal 2010). Building on this recent work, we use a novel data source in Mexico to understand the effect of skin color on life outcomes, such as schooling and earnings, and also its relationship to social mobility. ...
Article
In many Latin American countries, census data on race and skin color are scarce or nonexistent. In this study, we contribute to understanding how skin color affects intergenerational social mobility in Mexico. Using a novel data set, we provide evidence of profound social stratification by skin color, even after controlling for specific individual characteristics that previous work has not been able to include, such as individual cognitive and noncognitive abilities, parental education and wealth, and measures of stress and parenting style in the home of origin. Results indicate that people in the lightest skin color category have an average of 1.4 additional years of schooling and 53 % more in hourly earnings than their darkest-skinned counterparts. Social mobility is also related to skin color. Individuals in the darkest category are 20 percentile ranks lower in the current wealth distribution than those in the lightest category, conditional on parental wealth. In addition, results of a quantile regression indicate that the darkest group shows higher downward mobility.
... México resulta un país interesante para estudiar la relación entre estereotipos por tono de piel y aspiraciones futuras, pues, aunque actualmente los mexicanos se declaren como mestizos, también expresan cotidianamente preferencias por tonos de piel claros y fenotipos europeos y reconocen la existencia de discriminación directa contra minorías raciales (Aguilar, 2011;Telles y Bailey, 2013). La hipótesis en este trabajo es que la identidad social por tono de piel puede afectar las aspiraciones futuras y el esfuerzo en pruebas cognitivas. ...
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Background: Recent literature shows that, in Mexico, skin color is relevant for life outcomes and for social mobility. A possible transmission channel is explicit discrimination. Another possible channel is that the effort and aspirations may be affected by negative stereotypes attributed to dark-skinned individuals. Since society values certain physical traits (social identity), affected individuals can modify their behavior and expectations. Methods: We conducted a field experiment with middle school students in Mexico City. Each student solved a cognitive test and a questionnaire about future aspirations. The experimental design consisted of randomly revealing information before performing the test. The control group did not receive any information. Treatment 1 received twelve images of public characters with light or white skin prior taking the test, treatment 2 received a color palette to selfassess skin color and treatment 3 received both the mosaic of images and the palette of colors. Results: Results presented in here indicate that social identity and skin color stereotypes affect the aspirations and performance of young people in Mexico. The group that received the intervention invoking social identification by skin tone and its possible relation with life results, presented a lower level of aspirations towards the future (0.26 standard deviations), compared with the students in the control group. These effects come from women, suggesting that they are more sensitive to the negative effect of stereotypes. Conclusions: These results imply that cultural aspects in Mexico affect how young people behave and make decisions. Therefore, differences in life outcomes and social mobility for individuals with different skin color, but otherwise equal, could also be explained by the existence of negative stereotypes against darkskinned people.
... México resulta un país interesante para estudiar la relación entre estereotipos por tono de piel y aspiraciones futuras, pues, aunque actualmente los mexicanos se declaren como mestizos, también expresan cotidianamente preferencias por tonos de piel claros y fenotipos europeos y reconocen la existencia de discriminación directa contra minorías raciales (Aguilar, 2011;Telles y Bailey, 2013). La hipótesis en este trabajo es que la identidad social por tono de piel puede afectar las aspiraciones futuras y el esfuerzo en pruebas cognitivas. ...
Article
Full-text available
Background: Recent literature shows that, in Mexico, skin color is relevant for life outcomes and for social mobility. A possible transmission channel is explicit discrimination. Another possible channel is that the effort and aspirations may be affected by negative stereotypes attributed to dark-skinned individuals. Since society values certain physical traits (social identity), affected individuals can modify their behavior and expectations. Methods: We conducted a field experiment with middle school students in Mexico City. Each student solved a cognitive test and a questionnaire about future aspirations. The experimental design consisted of randomly revealing information before performing the test. The control group did not receive any information. Treatment 1 received twelve images of public characters with light or white skin prior taking the test, treatment 2 received a color palette to self-assess skin color and treatment 3 received both the mosaic of images and the palette of colors. Results: Results presented in here indicate that social identity and skin color stereotypes affect the aspirations and performance of young people in Mexico. The group that received the intervention invoking social identification by skin tone and its possible relation with life results, presented a lower level of aspirations towards the future (0.26 standard deviations), compared with the students in the control group. These effects come from women, suggesting that they are more sensitive to the negative effect of stereotypes. Conclusions: These results imply that cultural aspects in Mexico affect how young people behave and make decisions. Therefore, differences in life outcomes and social mobility for individuals with different skin color, but otherwise equal, could also be explained by the existence of negative stereotypes against dark-skinned people.
... 24 We expect those with greater political resources such as older individuals, individuals with higher levels of formal education, union members and frequent church attenders to be more politically engaged ). We expect self-identified indigenous respondents to be less politically engaged (Aguilar 2011). ...
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To what extent does the presence of a competitive female legislative candidate influence women’s political engagement in the context of a gender quota regime? Existing work on the effects of increasing descriptive representation on women’s engagement suggests a positive effect, but less attention is paid to how gender quotas may alter the relationship. We develop and test two hypotheses, one suggesting female candidates positively influence women’s engagement, while the other suggests female candidates in a gender quota regime may create a backlash effect and negatively influence women’s engagement. We draw on two nationally representative post-election surveys from Mexico and original data on the number and competitiveness of female candidates to examine the influence of these candidacies on multiple measures of political engagement. Overall, our results are more consistent with a backlash effect. We find female legislative candidates have little positive effect on increasing political engagement among women.
... Ejemplos de fenotipos son: tono de piel, rasgos faciales, color y textura del cabello, altura, etc. Estos estudios han demostrado que los mestizos mexicanos de piel clara tienen mejor estatus socioeconómico y que esas diferencias no se pueden explicar por otros factores socioeconómicos como educación, edad, género, etc. (Villarreal, 2010). Asimismo, hay evidencia empírica que demuestra que los mestizos de piel más oscura no se sienten tan satisfechos con la democracia ni tan representados por las elites políticas como sus contrapartes de piel clara (Aguilar, 2011). ...
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How does the state respond to members of the public seeking to mobilize its coercive power? Focusing on welfare fraud control units in the United States, we examine how race/ethnicity and written English proficiency affect access to systems for reporting welfare fraud suspicions. Using a correspondence audit, we assess fraud control authorities’ likelihood of taking up reports from Latinas and Whites with higher and lower English proficiency. We find that fraud units are less likely to take up lower-proficiency Whites’ reports, but that lower proficiency's uptake-dampening effect does not hold for Latinas. To explain the mechanisms underlying our experimental results, we draw on interviews with fraud investigators. The interview evidence reveals the determinations of investigative promise underlying these uptake disparities. For White reporters, English errors cue gatekeepers’ preexisting skepticism about public reporters’ reliability, decreasing enthusiasm for investing resources in these reports. Reports from lower-English proficiency Latinas offer special viability appeal, however, offsetting the negative influence on uptake probability that errors demonstrate for White reporters. Our results shed new light on contemporary racial/ethnic dynamics in the US welfare system, and advance social scientific understanding of how bureaucratic gatekeepers decide what to do—if anything—with volunteered reports of misconduct. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
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