Tuesday, January 30, 2007

What new immigrants learn on arrival...


Skin color scale used by researchers.

A new study from a Vanderbilt University scholar seems to prove that skin color is a very strong, maybe the strongest, predictor of how much money immigrant workers in the U.S. make.

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.”

...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. That meant that if two similar immigrants from Bangladesh, for example, came to the United States at the same time, with the same occupation and ability to speak English, the lighter-skinned one would make more money on average.

“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.

Pretty straightforward; in this country, immigrants are taught, painfully, that Black is means being lesser. What's amazing is not that there are tensions between African-American and newcomer populations, but how commonly African-Americans recognize immigrants as just people trying to make their way through a system stacked against both groups.

1 comment:

Omar Cruz said...
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