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Is Spanish-Only Schooling Responsible for the Puerto Rican Language Gap?

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  • Joshua Angrist
  • Aimee Chin
  • Ricardo Godoy

Abstract

Between 1898 and 1948, English was the language of instruction for most post-primary grades in Puerto Rican public schools. Since 1949, the language of instruction in all grades has been Spanish. We use this policy change to estimate the effect of English-intensive instruction on the English-language skills of Puerto Ricans. Although naive estimates suggest that English instruction increased English-speaking ability among Puerto Rican natives, estimates that allow for education-specific cohort trends show no effect. This result is surprising in light of the strong presumption by American policymakers at the time that instruction in English was the best way to raise English proficiency. This has implications for medium of instruction policy in former colonies as well as U.S. education policy toward immigrant children.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12005.

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Date of creation: Feb 2006
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Publication status: published as Angrist, Joshua, Aimee Chin, and Ricardo Godoy. “Is Spanish-only Schooling Responsible for the Puerto Rican Language Gap?” Journal of Development Economics 85 (February 2008): 105-128.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12005

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  1. Kaivan Munshi & Mark Rosenzweig, 2006. "Traditional Institutions Meet the Modern World: Caste, Gender, and Schooling Choice in a Globalizing Economy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(4), pages 1225-1252, September.
  2. Angrist, Joshua D & Lavy, Victor, 1997. "The Effect of a Change in Language of Instruction on the Returns to Schooling in Morocco," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(1), pages S48-76, January.
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