Skin Tone, Race/Ethnicity, and Wealth Stratification among New Immigrants: Revisiting the Preference for Whiteness Hypothesis

Matthew A. Painter, University of Wyoming
Malcolm Holmes, University of Wyoming

Immigrants’ racial/ethnic status has profound implications for their lives in the United States, including its influence on their ability to improve financial well-being. We examine a particular type of financial well-being – wealth attainment – and consider how both skin tone and race/ethnicity contribute to wealth stratification. To assess these dual influences, we use the New Immigrant Survey and the recently developed preference for whiteness hypothesis to argue that darker-skinned immigrants will attain lower levels of wealth and will be less likely to own certain assets. Results generally support the hypothesis, though darker skin among black immigrants was associated with a greater likelihood of cash account ownership. Overall, the results illuminate how immigrants with a racial/ethnic minority status and a darker complexion encounter multiple forms of disadvantage relative to white and/or their lighter-skinned fellow immigrants.

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Presented in Session 132: Measurement Issues in Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Sexuality