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Lighter Skin Pays Off for Immigrants in U.S.

Posted on Jan 26, 2007
skin shade
original: / alteration by Peter Scheer

A new study of thousands of immigrants found that those with lighter skin earned more money than immigrants of similar background whose skin was darker. “On average, being one shade lighter has about the same effect as having an additional year of education,” the study’s author said.


Joni Hersch, a law and economics professor at Vanderbilt University, looked at a government survey of 2,084 legal immigrants to the United States from around the world and found that those with the lightest skin earned an average of 8 percent to 15 percent more than similar immigrants with much darker skin.

“On average, being one shade lighter has about the same effect as having an additional year of education,” Hersch said.

The study also found that taller immigrants earn more than shorter ones, with an extra inch of height associated with a 1 percent increase in income.

Other researchers said the findings are consistent with other studies on color and point to a skin-tone prejudice that goes beyond race.

Hersh took into consideration other factors that could affect wages, such as English-language proficiency, education, occupation, race or country of origin, and found that skin tone still seemed to make a difference in earnings.

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By bi-racial girl, October 25, 2007 at 12:55 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I am both native american and white.  I come from a light tribe, but I have olive skin and tan very fast and dark.  When I am not tan, people assume I am 100% white.  When I am tan, people know I am not all white.  I am treated very differently when I am my “white” self vs. my “bi-racial” self.

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By Dr. Knowitall, PhD, PhD, January 28, 2007 at 1:07 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Then explain to me, if you would, the rationale behind getting a “tan.”  As I understand it, it works against you to have a darker skin tone, but, if you have lighter skin and everyone knows you have lighter skin, even if you lay out in the sun or visited a tanning salon and made your lighter skin darker, you will still be treated as one with lighter skin.  But that’s only if you’re not biracial with the darker skin tone being predominant so as to make you appear more the darker race than the lighter.  Conversely, if you are biracial with a predominantly light skin and visit a tanning salon or lie in the sun to darken your lighter skin as a biracial with predominantly light skin, you will be treated as a light-skinned person with a tan, even though your ancestory may be predominantly of the darker skin, say 25% biracial, 75% lighter-shade black.  Of course, you’d have to take great care in how you set about tanning yourself.  You wouldn’t want to make yourself too dark thereby negatively impacting your day-to-day life.  As for me, I’m not driving anymore with my right arm hanging out the window on sunny days because it might present people inclined to regard my skin tone with insurmountable problems.

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By Rodney Matthews, January 28, 2007 at 12:51 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Doesn’t susprise me one bit. Being black, the same thing has beem going on in America since slavery. Lighter skin blacks tend to get better treatment than the darker ones. It’s an untold and often undiscussed reality. Why do you think Cubans are allowed in why Hatians are deported? The same goes for all lighter skin hispanics and people of middle eastern descent. The lighter you are,the whiter you are, the better your chances in America are.

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By RAE, January 28, 2007 at 11:03 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

““On average, being one shade lighter has about the same effect as having an additional year of education,” Hersch said.”

There must be some defective gene in the “white” people’s collective… it not only drains their skin of what I consider attractive and protective shades of color but their brains of the fundamental ability to realize that ALL PEOPLE, GIVEN THE SAME OPPORTUNITIES AND CIRCUMSTANCES, HAVE, ON AVERAGE, THE SAME ABILITIES AND INTELLIGENCE.

Anyone in 2007 who doesn’t accept this truth is clearly suffering from some intellectual deficiency and should be hospitalized… and EDUCATED. It’s ridiculous to even be talking about it at this point.

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By Stephen Smoliar, January 27, 2007 at 9:02 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Commenting on Obama’s potential for “racial healing,” I cited a study demonstrating that blacks still have a harder time getting a job than whites do:

Now, as the article says, it appears that our skin-tone prejudice goes “beyond race.”  I find it too depressing to contemplate what the NEXT study might show!

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By Steve Hammons, January 26, 2007 at 9:42 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

And isn’t it interesting that many “white” Americans actually have some measure of Native American bloodlines and DNA within them?

Some families know this, and some do not. Maybe there are some rumors about Indian blood in the family.

Likewise, many “black” and “brown” people also have some Native American ancestry way down in their genes.

An article that explores these things is below:

Columnist’s article on Native Americans, Cherokee, needs more insight

Steve Hammons
American Chronicle
November 17, 2005

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By Talapus Pete, January 26, 2007 at 9:42 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

There’s an old definition of a sociologist as one who spents $50,000 and discovers that a “house of ill repute” is also a whorehouse.

I think many of us already know about the value of lighter skin color.

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By Chaseme, January 26, 2007 at 8:52 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

‘I’m tired’

A six foot three inch bald head Black man
Being kicked around and kept down wherever they can
At work at school on the highway, “don’t move!”
“Get your hands up, lay down!” Can’t keep my feet on the ground.
Trying to pull myself up by my boot straps, my mind is peppered with hatred
Every time I see that, “you’re murderer, you rob, you steal” on the American news.
If you’re caught up in materialism, capitalism guess what, you lose.
This American system has black men running full speed, dead last.
Except, on the track field, football field, basketball court.
If you choose another profession, it’s for white men of course.
You cry and you scream racism, discrimination, you’re fired!
Can’t fight this schizophrenic, racist American system, it’s too big
I moved away, I’m tired.

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