Thursday, March 27, 2008

Swarthy Need Not Apply


Light-skinned immigrants in the United States make more money on average than those with darker complexions, and the chief reason appears to be discrimination, a researcher says.

The scholar, Joni Hersch, a professor of law and economics at Vanderbilt University, looked at a government survey of 2,084 legal immigrants to the United States from around the world and found that those with the lightest skin earned an average of 8 percent to 15 percent more than similar immigrants with much darker skin.

“On average,” Dr. Hersch said, “being one shade lighter has about the same effect as having an additional year of education.”

The study also found that taller immigrants earned more than shorter ones, with an extra inch of height associated with a 1 percent increase in income.

Dr. Hersch took into consideration other factors that could affect wages, like English-language proficiency, education, occupation, race or country of origin, and found that skin tone still seemed to make a difference in earnings.

“I thought that once we controlled for race and nationality, I expected the difference to go away,” Dr. Hersch said, “but even with people from the same country, the same race, skin color really matters.”

Although many cultures show a bias toward lighter skin, she said her analysis showed that the skin-color advantage was not based on preferential treatment for light-skinned people in their country of origin. The bias, she said, occurs in the United States.

Click here for the full article



2 comments:

Lal said...

This is unrelated, but I gave you a shoutout today at our new blog -
Check out the post - http://adreamdeferred.org/blog/33952--i-voted-for-the-fence-but-i-voted-for-a-smart-fence

Elena said...

Honestly, I think this article is nothing new. Looking back through history, we can see so many instances where race was a key to either discrimination, or a road to citizenship. The Irish, in the early 20th century, so commonly reviled once they first came here, were able to assimilate into the community and gained citizenship in greater numbers than any other immigrant group at the time because of their inherent Caucasian appearance, and English-speaking ability. With citizenship came the power of suffrage, and the Irish almost immediately started businesses and boosted their immigrant community to higher echelons of society, and higher economic levels. Conversely, the Chinese, due to their unusual appearances and their disinclination to assimilate, were exiled from American society. They kept their long braids, and continued to speak their native dialects, and their extreme racial differences kept them from not-only citizenship, but thanks to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, they were banned from entering the country for decades, until our government came to their senses in 1943, and repealed the act. The difference between the Chinese and Irish was nothing but their culture, their race, and their language. What I think is the common element between these two groups and the dearth of employment for darker-skinned immigrants is the racism that exists in the United States, no matter how much we try to deny it. Why do we block the Mexican border so intensely, and leave the Canadian border alone? As Massimo Calabresi informs the readers of “Time” Magazine, “Ahmed Ressam, the so-called Millennium Bomber, was caught at the Canadian border with a trunk full of explosive precursor material and a plot to bomb Los Angeles Airport.” Why, then, do we not man the Canadian border nearly as much (publicly and privately) as the Mexican border? I thought we were blocking the Mexican border for national security, not because there is an inherent racist attitude against Mexicans, although I could be wrong.
We don’t have the best record as a country hiding our dislike for other ethnicities besides, well, white people. In 1923, in U.S. v. Bhagat Singh Thind, the Supreme Court denied citizenship to Thind, an Asian Indian, on the grounds that, although Thind could prove his Caucasian identity anthropologically, there was an obvious societal conception of what a white man was (apparently something beyond the only group eligible to be declared naturalized citizens) that Asian Indians did not fit. Maybe over the years our society has learned to hide it’s distrust of immigrants derived from an inborn racism that our society apparently still carries, according to this article, although throughout history, we have been surprisingly forthcoming about our racist attitude as a country.
I guess what I’m really trying to get to is how this country’s growing dislike for immigrants has a direct relationship with the darkness of that immigrant’s skin. I’ve been looking at so many blogs about immigration, and I’ve found post after post from people fighting to kick out the so-called spiks, criminals, and motherfuckers. What these people may not realize is that their opinions seem to be so greatly influenced by racism, and that they are not the first people to feel this way. Perhaps Mexicans and darker-skinned immigrants are receiving the brunt of this negative attention now, but sadly, they are not the first group to have this put upon them. I think our country really needs to consider how much of our immigration policy(both at a governmental and a local level, as we are seeing with the trends in the job market) is propelled by politics, and how much is tainted by racism.