Understanding the association between phenotype and ethnic identity.

Irene Lopez, Kenyon College


Does it matter how you look? Is there a connection between your physical appearance and your feelings toward your ethnic group? Or can your phenotype, defined as your skin color and racial features, affect how members of your ethnic group feel toward you? In this chapter we review the literature on the complex relations between phenotype and ethnic identity and discuss how the associations between these two variables are not always direct, linear, or stable. We begin by defining ethnic identity and phenotype and then discuss how the ways in which these variables have been conceptualized and measured have necessitated more complicated assessments, designs, and analyses. We then present the results of our own work on phenotype and ethnic identity to illustrate how results can differ depending on the group studied and the methods and assessments used. We conclude with a reflection of the challenges faced in conducting such research and suggest future directions for those who may be interested in pursuing research in this area