Family background, skin color, and contact with the criminal justice system


Kizer, Jessica M. (2016). Family background, skin color, and contact with the criminal justice system. 2016 Add Health Users Conference. Bethesda, MD.


Using both nationally representative data and a sample of siblings, I examine the relationship between skin tone and being arrested as an adult. Despite sharing a family background, siblings vary from one another in variety of later life outcomes. While previous studies have examined sibling differences in criminal justice outcomes, no study has investigated whether skin color influences this relationship. Social scientists have demonstrated that skin color significantly shapes the life chances of blacks and Latinos, however very little work has been done on siblings. In this paper, I examine if skin color affects differential contact with the criminal justice system using both a nationally representative and sibling sample. My preliminary analyses suggest that men with darker skin are significantly more likely to experience an adult arrest than their lighter-skinned counterparts, and that this relationship remains even when looking at members of the same family.


Reference Type

Conference proceeding

Book Title

2016 Add Health Users Conference


Kizer, Jessica M.

Year Published


City of Publication

Bethesda, MD

Reference ID