Skin Tone Effects Among African Americans: Perceptions and Reality

24 Pages Posted: 31 Jul 2006

See all articles by Joni Hersch

Joni Hersch

Vanderbilt University - Law School; IZA Institute of Labor Economics; Vanderbilt University - Owen Graduate School of Management; Vanderbilt University - College of Arts and Science - Department of Economics

Abstract

It is commonly assumed that lighter skinned African Americans receive preferential treatment over darker skinned counterparts. Using individual data from three sources, this paper examines the influence of skin tone on education and on wages. Lighter skin tone has a consistent positive impact on educational attainment but has a less consistent influence on wages. Possible mechanisms by which skin tone differences might influence economic outcomes are investigated, including measurement error, perceived attractiveness, access to integrated schools or work groups, perceived discrimination, and genetic differences. The perception that there is differential treatment on the basis of skin tone is more pronounced than the observed disparities.

JEL Classification: J15, I20, J30

Suggested Citation

Hersch, Joni, Skin Tone Effects Among African Americans: Perceptions and Reality. American Economic Review, Vol. 96, No. 2, May 2006, Harvard Law and Economics Discussion Paper No. 545, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=921428

Joni Hersch (Contact Author)

Vanderbilt University - Law School ( email )

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IZA Institute of Labor Economics ( email )

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Vanderbilt University - Owen Graduate School of Management

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Vanderbilt University - College of Arts and Science - Department of Economics

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