Joni Hersch

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AEA Papers and Proceedings

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race equality, race discrimination, human skin color


Law | Law and Race


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.

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