When immigrants enter American society, they encounter a web of prejudice blocking their path to success and well-being. A new study examines the effects of two potential strands of this obstruction—race and skin color—on employment among immigrant men and women, and finds surprisingly gendered results.
By analyzing data from the 2003 National Immigrant Survey (which studies documented immigrants), University of Kansas sociologists Andrea Gomez Cervantes and ChangHwan Kim found that darker-skinned male immigrants were less likely to have a job than lighter-skinned ones. (The survey tracked skin color on a scale ranging from 0, the lightest, to 9, the darkest.) For immigrant women, though, skin color didn’t affect their employment outcome as much as race did.
Here’s how the study puts its results, in a (not-yet-published) working paper:
Indeed, darker skin color lowers the likelihood of employment for male immigrants regardless of their race after controlling for human capital and demographic covariates, while skin color has no meaningful impact for female immigrants when race is controlled for.
The researchers considered a number of factors that might impact employment status, including education and time spent in the United States. For male immigrants, though, skin color had a significant negative effect on job status even when all else was equal (including race). Darker-skinned men were less likely to have jobs than lighter-skinned men across the immigrant board.