Lighter Skin Pays Off for Immigrants in U.S.
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.