Skin Color, Immigrant Wages, and Discrimination

  • Joni Hersch


Immigrant workers with darker skin color have lower pay than their counterparts with lighter skin color. Whether this pay penalty is due to labor market discrimination is explored using data from the New Immigrant Survey 2003 to estimate wage equations that control for skin color, sequentially taking into account a series of individual characteristics related to labor market productivity and personal background. These characteristics include Hispanic ethnicity, race, country of birth, education, family background, occupation in source country, English language proficiency, visa status, employer characteristics, and current occupation. The analysis finds that the labor market penalty to darker skin color cannot be attributed to differences in productivity and is evidence of labor market discrimination that arises within the U.S. labor market. The largest groups of post-1965 immigrants – those from Asia and Latin America – are penalized in the U.S. labor market for their darker skin color.


Labor Market Skin Color Wage Equation Hispanic Ethnicity English Language Proficiency 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Law SchoolVanderbilt UniversityNashvilleUSA

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