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Seminar: Amelia Branigan - UMD

Colorism in the Rental Housing Market: Field Experimental Evidence of Discrimination by Skin Color
When May 06, 2019
from 12:00 PM to 01:00 PM
Where 1101 Morrill Hall
Contact Name
Contact Phone 301-405-6403
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About the Presentation

While sociological research on colorism has affirmed an association between lighter skin and socioeconomic advantage among minorities across a range of outcomes, causal estimates of discrimination are notoriously difficult to generate outside of experimental contexts. Using data from a 2012 audit study conducted by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, here we present field experimental evidence of two distinct patterns of colorism in the housing market, demonstrating variation by the race of the agent, race of the tester, and the type of outcome being considered. We find that while black and Hispanic testers are penalized for darker skin color on non-monetary outcomes (credit checks, criminal background checks, and number of units shown), results for monetary outcomes follow a more complex pattern consistent with statistical discrimination, wherein skin color may be read as a proxy for group-level attributes such as socioeconomic status. Our results affirm colorism as a salient basis of new inequality in the present day; complicate the notion that colorism invariably entails advantage for individuals with lighter skin; and emphasize the need to better understand the microsocial dynamics of how color-based stereotypes translate into lived contexts in which interventions might be possible.

About the Speaker

Amelia Branigan

Amelia Branigan is a social demographer with central interests in inequality, health, and the criminal justice system. She currently has three projects ongoing. The first project considers the social consequences of variation in visible phenotype, specifically focusing on body mass and skin color. A second project uses Scandinavian registry data to consider how infertility, defined as the inability to conceive a wanted pregnancy, is associated with differential outcomes in children ultimately conceived. Two new projects consider the interaction between health and the criminal justice system: the first interrogates the association between parental incarceration and child physical health, while the second asks how shifts in spatialized neighborhood violence, operationalized as transitioning gang boundaries in Chicago, affect a range of individual-level and neighborhood-level health and educational outcomes. Studies from these three projects have been published in journals including Demography, Social Forces, and Sociology of Education.

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