Those Who Tan and Those Who Don't: A Natural Experiment in Colorism
Tel Aviv University
15 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2020
Date Written: August 11, 2020
Are darker-skinned workers discriminated against in the labor market? Studies using survey data have shown that darker skin tone is associated with increased labor market disadvantages. However, it is hard to refute the possibility that other factors correlated with skin tones might affect employment outcomes. To overcome this inherent limitation, we use a natural experiment: we utilize changes in one’s own skin tone, generated by exposure to the sun, to explore the effect of skin tone on the tendency to be employed. We find that those people whose skin tone becomes darker by exposure to the sun (but not others) are less likely to be employed when the UV radiation in the previous three weeks in the area in which they reside is greater. These within-person findings hold even when controlling for the week, the year, the region, demographic characteristics and the occupation and industry one is employed in.
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