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January 29, 2007
Study: Lighter Skin Tone Equals More Pay

A study has found that legal immigrants with a lighter skin tone earn bigger paychecks than those with a darker skin tone, even if the workers share the same ethnicity, race, and country of origin.

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For the study, Joni Hersch, a professor at Vanderbilt University, looked at data from a government survey of 2,084 legal immigrants. The interviewer for the survey reported the person's skin color using an 11-point scale in which 0 represented the absence of color and 10 represented the darkest possible skin color.

Hersch says her analysis found that immigrants with the lightest skin color earned, on average, 8 percent to 15 percent more than did immigrants with the darkest skin tone.

Hersch looked at several possible reasons for the disparity in pay--such as English-language proficiency, work experience, and education--but concluded that discrimination was the most likely explanation.

"I was surprised and dismayed at how strong and persistent the skin color effect was even after I considered a whole series of alternative interpretations and explanations," says Hersch.

The researcher also concluded that taller immigrants earned more, finding that every additional inch in height equaled 1 percent more in wages.

Source: Vanderbilt News

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