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On the Blurring of the Color Line: Wages and Employment for Black Males of Different Skin Tones


  • Daniel Kreisman

    () (Georgia State University, Department of Economics)

  • Marcos A. Rangel

    () (Duke University, Sanford School of Public Policy)


We evaluate the role skin color plays in earnings and employment for black males in the NLSY97. By applying a novel, scaled measure of skin tone to a nationally representative sample and by estimating the evolution of labor market differentials over time, we bridge a burgeoning literature on skin color with more established literatures on wage differentials and labor market discrimination. We find that while intraracial wage gaps widen with experience, gaps between the lightest-skinned black workers and whites remain constant, suggesting that a blurring of the color line elicits subtle yet meaningful variation in earnings differentials over time. © 2015 The President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Suggested Citation

  • Daniel Kreisman & Marcos A. Rangel, 2015. "On the Blurring of the Color Line: Wages and Employment for Black Males of Different Skin Tones," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 97(1), pages 1-13, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:tpr:restat:v:97:y:2015:i:1:p:1-13

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    Cited by:

    1. Srikant Devaraj & Pankaj C. Patel, 2017. "Skin Tone and Self-Employment: is there an Intra-Group Variation among Blacks?," The Review of Black Political Economy, Springer;National Economic Association, vol. 44(1), pages 137-166, June.
    2. Srikant Devaraj & Narda R Quigley & Pankaj C Patel, 2018. "The effects of skin tone, height, and gender on earnings," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 13(1), pages 1-22, January.
    3. Joanna Tyrowicz & Magdalena Smyk, 2019. "Wage Inequality and Structural Change," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 141(2), pages 503-538, January.
    4. Cai, Zhengyu & Maguire, Karen & Winters, John V., 2018. "Who Benefits from Local Oil and Gas Employment? Labor Market Composition in the Oil and Gas Industry in Texas," GLO Discussion Paper Series 246, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
    5. Tamar Kricheli Katz & Tali Regev & Shay Lavie & Haggai Porat & Ronen Avraham, 2020. "Those who tan and those who don’t: A natural experiment on colorism," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 15(7), pages 1-14, July.
    6. Daniel Kreisman & Kevin Stange, 2020. "Vocational and Career Tech Education in American High Schools: The Value of Depth Over Breadth," Education Finance and Policy, MIT Press, vol. 15(1), pages 11-44, Winter.
    7. Manuel Hermosilla & Fernanda Gutiérrez-Navratil & Juan Prieto-Rodríguez, 2018. "Can Emerging Markets Tilt Global Product Design? Impacts of Chinese Colorism on Hollywood Castings," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 37(3), pages 356-381, May.
    8. Marcos Rangel, 2015. "Is Parental Love Colorblind? Human Capital Accumulation within Mixed Families," The Review of Black Political Economy, Springer;National Economic Association, vol. 42(1), pages 57-86, June.
    9. Robert L. Reece, 2021. "The Gender of Colorism: Understanding the Intersection of Skin Tone and Gender Inequality," Journal of Economics, Race, and Policy, Springer, vol. 4(1), pages 47-55, March.
    10. JooHee Han, 2020. "Does Skin Tone Matter? Immigrant Mobility in the U.S. Labor Market," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 57(2), pages 705-726, April.
    11. Mavisakalyan, Astghik, 2018. "Do employers reward physical attractiveness in transition countries?," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 28(C), pages 38-52.
    12. Yariv Fadlon & Sophie Tripp, 2015. "The gray area: high school dropout likelihood among skin tone levels of black males," Econometrics Letters, Bilimsel Mektuplar Organizasyonu (Scientific letters), vol. 2(2), pages 1-11.
    13. Cai, Zhengyu & Maguire, Karen & Winters, John V., 2019. "Who benefits from local oil and gas employment? Labor market composition in the oil and gas industry in Texas and the rest of the United States," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(C).
    14. Astghik Mavisakalyan, 2016. "Looks matter: Attractiveness and employment in the former soviet union," Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre Working Paper series WP1604, Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre (BCEC), Curtin Business School.

    More about this item


    intraracial; intraracial wage gap; wage gap; wage differentials; labor market; labor market discrimination;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • G10 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - General (includes Measurement and Data)
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • J70 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination - - - General


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