UBC Faculty Research and Publications

The multiple dimensions of race Roth, Wendy D.


Increasing numbers of people in the United States and beyond experience “race” not as a single, consistent identity but as a number of conflicting dimensions. This article distinguishes the multiple dimensions of the concept of race, including racial identity, self-classification, observed race, reflected race, phenotype, and racial ancestry. With the word “race” used as a proxy for each of these dimensions, much of our scholarship and public discourse is actually comparing across several distinct, albeit correlated, variables. Yet which dimension of race is used can significantly influence findings of racial inequality. I synthesize scholarship on the multiple dimensions of race, and situate in this framework distinctive literatures on colorism and genetic ancestry inference. I also map the relationship between the multidimensionality of race and processes of racial fluidity and racial boundary change.

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