Immigrants with the lightest complexions earned, on average, about 8 to 15 percent more than those with the darkest skin tone after controlling for race and country of origin as well as for other factors related to earnings, including occupation, education, language skills, work history, type of visa and whether they were married to a U.S. citizen.
In fact, Hersch estimated that the negative impact of skin tone on earnings was equal to the benefit of education, with a particularly dark complexion virtually wiping out the advantage of education on earnings….
Hersch based her results on 2,084 men and women who participated in face-to-face interviews for the federally funded 2003 New Immigrant Survey. All of the respondents had been admitted to lawful permanent resident status during the seven-month period, May to November 2003. As part of the survey, interviewers also rated the skin tone of each individual on an 11-point scale ranging from zero to 10, with 10 representing the darkest possible skin color and zero the absence of color, or albinism.
Why should pale people earn more? “I don’t think that any explanation other than discrimination is possible—and I am not one to draw such inferences lightly,” Hersch said in an e-mail. “I am stunned by the strength and consistency of the findings, even controlling for race, even controlling for nationality, and . . . everything that could possibly matter.”
This was true even for white european people; Estonians would apparently sail past swarthy Mediterranean types (not a particular finding from the paper, mind.) In her paper she mentions that among US-born black men there is also correlation between lighter skin and higher wages, but doesn’t say whether among US-born whites there is a premuim placed on paleness. I would be inclined to say not, but then, it seems hard to imagine how this pressure could apply only to immigrants. Rather striking results, though. It’s also easy to see why the nigh-transparent complexions of Irish university profs give them an edge in the US job market.