The Effect of African American Skin Color on Hiring Preferences1


  • 1

    The authors wish to thank Andrew Baum and anonymous reviewers for their comments and suggestions on an earlier version of this manuscript. A version of the manuscript was presented at the 70th annual convention of the Eastern Psychological Association, Providence, Rhode Island, April 1999.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to T. Joel Wade, Department of Psychology, Bucknell University, Lewisburg, PA 17837. E-mail:


The role of African American skin color in hiring decisions was investigated in a 2 × 2 × 2 (Participant Sex × Applicant Sex × Applicant Skin Color) design. College-age participants (N= 107) were presented with stimuli and asked to make 8 employment-related decisions. An interaction of applicant skin color and participant sex and a skin-color main effect were predicted. Fair-skinned applicants were expected to receive better ratings from men, while dark-skinned applicants were expected to receive better ratings from women or ratings from women would not differ. Additionally, in general, fair-skinned individuals were expected to receive better ratings than dark-skinned individuals. The results were consistent with the hypotheses. Results are discussed in terms of the “what is beautiful is good” stereotype and prior research.