August 2010

IZA DP No. 5120: Skin Tone's Decreasing Importance on Employment: Evidence from a Longitudinal Dataset, 1985-2000

revised version published as 'The Decreasing Effect of Skin Tone on Women's Full-Time Employment' in: Industrial and Labor Relations Review, 2012, 65 (2), 398-426

We investigate the effect of skin tone on employment probabilities in a longitudinal data set. Using an objective measure of skin tone from a light-spectrometer and a self-reported measure of race we find that over time the effect of skin tone on employment has diminished. These results hold both across the white and African-American samples as well as within the African-American sample itself with regard to skin tone. Further investigation indicates that all of the gains can be attributed to African-American women; there are no changes in the employment probabilities for African-American men in the 15 year panel data. We find that the expansion of employment for women is concentrated in the services occupations.