Home > Archive > Volume 64, No. 3 > This paper

Skin Color and Cognitive Ability among Mexicans and Mexican Americans: A Research Note

John G.R. Fuerst


Published: 2024/03/01


Skin color is a widely studied phenotype that, at least in admixed American populations, shows associations with many socially-valued outcomes such as educational attainment. These associations may arise due to race-related discrimination or due to inherited disadvantage. Though rarely discussed in current literature, associations between color and measures of cognitive ability have been found since the early 20th century. This topic has recently received renewed interest. However, information on the relation between cognitive ability and color or other ancestry-related phenotypes is lacking for many American countries. Here we report previously unreported negative correlations between darker skin color and cognitive ability scores of [I]r[/I] = −.16 ([I]N[/I] = 2616) in a large representative sample of Mexicans and of [I]r[/I] = −.266 ([I]N[/I] = 327) in a representative sample of US-born Mexican Americans. In the latter sample, cognitive ability scores also correlated with parent-reported European ethnicity ([I]r[/I] = .142, [I]N[/I] = 423). Directions for future research on the nexus between race-associated phenotype and social inequalities are discussed. Keywords: Ancestry, Cognitive ability, Skin color, Mexico, Mexican American

   Download PDF