The study of social inequality and stratification (e.g. ethnoracial and gender) has long been at the core of sociology and the social sciences. I argue that certain tendencies have become entrenched in our dominant paradigm that leaves many researchers pursuing coarse-grained analyses of how difference relates to inequality. Centrally, despite the importance of categories and categorization for how researchers study social inequality, contemporary theories of categories are poorly integrated into conventional research. I argue that the widespread and often unquestioned use of State categories as categories of analysis reinforces these tendencies. Using research on skin tone stratification (or colorism) as an inspiration, I highlight several components of an alternative model that better integrates contemporary theories of categories into measuring the social difference. Above all, this model proposes an analytic shift in focus from membership in categories to the cues of categories, membership in sub-categories, and perceived typicality.
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