Looking through the Shades: The Effect of Skin Color on Earnings by Region of Birth and Race for Immigrants to the United States

Journal Article (Journal Article)

The purpose of this study is to determine whether a labor market penalty exists for members of immigrant groups as a result of being phenotypically different from white Americans. Specifically, the authors examine the link between skin shade, perhaps the most noticeable phenotypical characteristic, and wages for immigrants from five regions: (1) Europe and Central Asia; (2) China, East Asia, South Asia, and the Pacific; (3) Latin America and the Caribbean; (4) Sub-Saharan Africa; and (5) the Middle East and North Africa. Using data from the New Immigrant Survey, a nationally representative multi-cohort longitudinal study of new legal immigrants to the United States, the authors find a skin shade penalty in wages for darker immigrants. However, disaggregating by region of origin shows that this finding is driven exclusively by the experience of immigrants from Latin America; the wage penalty for skin tone is substantial for self-reported nonblack Latin American immigrants. The effects of colorism are much less pronounced or nonexistent among other national-origin populations. Furthermore, although a skin shade penalty is not discernible among African immigrants, findings show that African immigrants experience a racial wage penalty.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Rosenblum, A; Darity, W; Harris, AL; Hamilton, TG

Published Date

  • January 1, 2016

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 2 / 1

Start / End Page

  • 87 - 105

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 2332-6506

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 2332-6492

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1177/2332649215600718

Citation Source

  • Scopus