Language, learning, and location
AbstractLanguage is a fundamental tool for communication of ideas between people, and so is an essential input into production and trade. In general, a society will possess more production and consumption opportunities when all its members share a common language. Neighboring societies and communities likewise have a strong incentive to utilize a common language, and indeed there are countless examples of language assimilation, especially in the last one hundred years. Hence, it is puzzling that more assimilation has not occurred. History has recorded numerous examples of communities that coexist with distinct languages and limited economic interaction. ; This paper presents a stylized model to reconcile both assimilation and non-assimilation. We abstract from cultural and historical factors, which are of course significant, but are present in both. The model has two languages, two locations, and two time periods. Agents are initially endowed with one or both languages and a location. Agents choose whether or not to learn the other language, and subsequently choose whether or not to move to the other region. Language facilitates production: an agent can produce output only in conjunction with others who share the same location and language. Consequently, there are strong incentives to locate with others who share the same language, and to learn the language that others speak. The cost of learning is endogenous: agents who are learning cannot produce. ; Our model delivers a full assimilation equilibrium, as well as geographic and linguistic isolation equilibria. In the latter equilibria, location and language barriers prevent economic interaction from occurring. Increasing returns and strategic complementarities are present, but sometimes they operate locally, in addition to globally.
Download InfoIf you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of New York in its series Staff Reports with number 26.
Date of creation: 1997
Date of revision:
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Yavas, Abdullah, 1994. "Middlemen in Bilateral Search Markets," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 12(3), pages 406-29, July.
- Diamond, Peter A, 1982.
"Aggregate Demand Management in Search Equilibrium,"
Journal of Political Economy,
University of Chicago Press, vol. 90(5), pages 881-94, October.
- McManus, Walter S, 1985. "Labor Market Costs of Language Disparity: An Interpretation of Hispanic Earnings Differences," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(4), pages 818-27, September.
- Steve Williamson & Randall Wright, 1991.
"Barter and monetary exchange under private information,"
141, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
- Williamson, Steve & Wright, Randall, 1994. "Barter and Monetary Exchange under Private Information," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(1), pages 104-23, March.
- Williamson, S. & Wright, R., 1991. "Barter and Monetary Exchange Under Private Information," University of Western Ontario, The Centre for the Study of International Economic Relations Working Papers 9107, University of Western Ontario, The Centre for the Study of International Economic Relations.
- Benabou, Roland, 1993.
"Workings of a City: Location, Education, and Production,"
The Quarterly Journal of Economics,
MIT Press, vol. 108(3), pages 619-52, August.
- Roland Benabou, 1991. "Workings of a City: Location, Education, and Production," NBER Technical Working Papers 0113, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Jeffrey Church & Ian King, 1993. "Bilingualism and Network Externalities," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 26(2), pages 337-45, May.
- Romer, Paul M, 1990.
"Endogenous Technological Change,"
Journal of Political Economy,
University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(5), pages S71-102, October.
- Kiyotaki, Nobuhiro & Wright, Randall, 1989. "On Money as a Medium of Exchange," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(4), pages 927-54, August.
- Edward P. Lazear, 1999.
"Culture and Language,"
Journal of Political Economy,
University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(S6), pages S95-S126, December.
- Cooper, Russell & John, Andrew, 1988. "Coordinating Coordination Failures in Keynesian Models," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 103(3), pages 441-63, August.
- Kiyotaki, Nobuhiro & Wright, Randall, 1993. "A Search-Theoretic Approach to Monetary Economics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(1), pages 63-77, March.
- Chiswick, Barry R, 1991. "Speaking, Reading, and Earnings among Low-Skilled Immigrants," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 9(2), pages 149-70, April.
- Ethier, Wilfred J, 1982. "National and International Returns to Scale in the Modern Theory of International Trade," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(3), pages 389-405, June.
- Chiswick, Barry R & Miller, Paul W, 1995. "The Endogeneity between Language and Earnings: International Analyses," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 13(2), pages 246-88, April.
- Kremer, Michael, 1993. "The O-Ring Theory of Economic Development," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 108(3), pages 551-75, August.
- Katz, Michael L & Shapiro, Carl, 1986. "Technology Adoption in the Presence of Network Externalities," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(4), pages 822-41, August.
- Grenier, G. & Vaillancourt, F., 1982. "An Economic Perspective on Learning a Second Language," Cahiers de recherche 8238, Universite de Montreal, Departement de sciences economiques.
- Katz, Kimberly & Matsui, Akihiko, 2004. "When trade requires coordination," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 18(3), pages 440-461, September.
- Susan W. Parker & Luis Rubalcava & Graciela Teruel, 2002. "Schooling Inequality among the Indigenous: A Problem of Resources or Language Barriers?," Research Department Publications 3134, Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Amy Farber).
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.