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The Surprising Link Between Skin Color, Gender, and Immigrant Employment

Age-old stereotypes interact in complex ways when new arrivals look for jobs.
relates to The Surprising Link Between Skin Color, Gender, and Immigrant Employment
AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

When immigrants enter American society, they encounter a web of prejudice blocking their path to success and well-being. A new study examines the effect 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.