American Sociological Association

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

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.


Rosenblum, A., Darity, W., Harris, A. L., Hamilton, T. G.





Starting Page


Ending Page


Get Involved


ASA needs you to serve the discipline

Join a Section

Explore ASA's community of specialists in the discipline

Join ASA

Join or renew your membership