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The following MWE fits 5 references on the page. As soon as I uncomment the color command (\myblue), it only fits four, with nothing else having changed.

Related: one open question that I still have is Why does a colored line break wrapped in curly spaces take up space? This one has to do with color at the beginning (or end) of a paragraph; here, I use color inside a paragraph inside an environment...

\documentclass{article}
\usepackage{xcolor}
\def\mysmall{\trivlist\item\small}
\def\endmysmall{\endtrivlist}
% \newcommand{\myblue}{\color{blue}}
\providecommand{\myblue}{}

\usepackage{lipsum}
\begin{document}
    \lipsum[1]

    \section{Conclusion}
    \lipsum[6]

    \begin{mysmall}
        Black and black and black and black and black and black and black and \myblue{}blue: \lipsum[4]
    \end{mysmall}

    \begin{thebibliography}{3}
        \small
        \bibitem{Bla}Bla and bla and bla and bla and bla and bla and bla and bla and bla and bla and bla
        \bibitem{Bla}Bla and bla and bla and bla and bla and bla and bla and bla and bla and bla and bla
        \bibitem{Bla}Bla and bla and bla and bla and bla and bla and bla and bla and bla and bla and bla
        \bibitem{Bla}Bla and bla and bla and bla and bla and bla and bla and bla and bla and bla and bla
        \bibitem{Bla}Bla and bla and bla and bla and bla and bla and bla and bla and bla and bla and bla
        \bibitem{Bla}Bla and bla and bla and bla and bla and bla and bla and bla and bla and bla and bla
    \end{thebibliography}
\end{document}

I have been able to further minimize my problem to this MWE:

\documentclass{article}
\usepackage{color}
\newcommand{\blue}{}
% \renewcommand{\blue}{\color{blue}}
\begin{document}
    \begin{itemize}
        \item Black and \blue{}blue.
    \end{itemize}

    \section{This moves down when the above is blue.}
\end{document}
  • this is a documented issue (see 3.7 Possible problems in color doc, the footnote at bottom of page). Use \textcolor{blue}{blue}. – user4686 Sep 22 '17 at 8:52
  • yes but here at my TeX installation (not fully up-to-date) the document is dated 2017-06-01... I trigger it from texdoc color at the command line. – user4686 Sep 22 '17 at 11:27
  • @jfbu Thanks! I found this document at mirrors.ctan.org/macros/latex/required/graphics/grfguide.pdf – bers Sep 22 '17 at 11:59
  • For the record: "There is a different type of problem that will occur for all drivers. Due to certain technical difficulties(^2), it is possible that at points where the colour changes, the spacing is affected. [...] (^2)At least two causes: 1) The presence of a \special <whatsit> prevents \addvspace `seeing' space on the current vertical list, so causing it to incorrectly add extra vertical space. 2) A <whatsit> as the first item in a \vtop moves the reference point of the box." – bers Sep 22 '17 at 12:03

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