Mara Ostfeld explains how skin color is more than skin deep in ISR Insights talk

October 12, 2022

Contact: Jon Meerdink (meerdink@umich.edu)

ANN ARBOR — The Institute for Social Research’s Insights Speaker Series returned on Thursday, October 6 with a look at the impact of skin color in the United States.

Mara Ostfeld, a faculty associate at ISR’s Center for Political Studies, spoke on the different ways that a person’s skin color affects everything from educational opportunities to health care, highlighting the increasing importance people place on their own racial identities in American culture today.

Ostfeld based her presentation on her book Skin Color, Power, and Politics in America, which explores how a person’s political views can affect their racial identity.

“We know there’s a ton of evidence today that skin color matters,” said Ostfeld. “We’ve seen that skin color is associated with income and wealth. It’s associated with occupational prestige, neighborhood segregation, years of education, health outcomes, interactions with the criminal justice system, and perceptions of how racially legitimate or authentic others think you may be.” 

View Ostfeld’s full talk below for more about how one’s self-assessment of skin color can play into each of these areas and what researchers are learning about how skin color can shape our identities in unexpected ways.