Skin Tone Differences in Social Mobility in Mexico: Are We Forgetting Regional Variance?

Luis Ángel Monroy-Gómez-Franco

Roberto Vélez Grajales

Documento de trabajo CEEY no. 04 / 2020

Recent analyses at the national scale have concluded that there is a strong relationship between skin tones and social mobility in Mexico, where darker skin tones are associated with lower rates of relative upward intergenerational mobility compared to the rest of the population. The present paper shows that these previous estimates are biased downwards as they fail to take into account the effects of regional differences in the distribution of skin tones. We correct for this factor by analyzing a new data set with information representative at the regional level. Our results suggest that the mobility gap between light and dark skin tone individuals persists after including the regional dimension in the analysis. Throughout the country, light skin individuals have an advantage at moving upwards the socioeconomic scale and remaining at the top compared with the rest of the population. However, the magnitude of the gap varies across regions, being smallest in Mexico City and largest in the North West and South regions of the country. We also find that, regardless of skin tone, individuals with origins in the South face a disadvantage with respect to their peers from the rest of the country.