Research on race and inequality

Race and inequality

Princeton University senior Genay Kirkpatrick (Class of 2012) was one of the students in Telles’ class “Race, Ethnicity and Nationalism in Latin America,” which offered a comparative study of how race is perceived throughout Latin America.

By spanning the social sciences and the Americas in his research, Professor of Sociology Edward Telles is increasing our understanding of how race and inequality interact.

Telles focuses his research on comparative studies of race across Latin America. Through Princeton’s Project on Ethnicity and Race in Latin America, which Telles leads and which is funded in part by the Ford Foundation, he surveys topics such as racial attitudes, inequality and health in Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Peru.

Among his more striking findings, Telles has noted that skin color is a better indicator than ethno-racial identity in understanding income and educational inequality in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Mexico. In those countries, survey data based on ethno-racial identity suggested that blacks and people of mixed-race may no longer suffer discrimination. However, interviewers also recorded respondents’ skin color, and Telles found a strong correlation between skin color and income, occupation and education levels, with those with darker skin faring worse on measures of equality than those with lighter skin.

“It’s not just a matter of what people call themselves, because these things are so fluid anyway. The more objective indicator is color,” Telles said. “They’re both aspects of race, but they work in different ways.”