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Linguistic Distance and the Language Fluency of Immigrants

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  • Ingo E. Isphording

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  • Sebastian Otten

Abstract

We use a newly available measure of linguistic distance developed by the German Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology to explain heterogeneity in language skills of immigrants. This measure is based on an automatical algorithm comparing pronunciation and vocabulary of language pairs. Using data from the German Socio- Economic Panel covering the period from 1997 to 2003, the linguistic distance measure is applied within a human capital framework of language acquisition. It is shown that linguistic distance is the most important determinant for host country language acquisition and that it explains a large fraction of language skill heterogeneity between immigrants. By lowering the effi ciency and imposing higher costs of language learning, the probability of reporting good language skills is decreasing by increasing linguistic distance.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Rheinisch-Westfälisches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Universität Dortmund, Universität Duisburg-Essen in its series Ruhr Economic Papers with number 0274.

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Length: 37 pages
Date of creation: Aug 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:rwi:repape:0274

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Keywords: Linguistic distance; language; immigrants; human capital;

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References

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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Jonas Helgertz, 2013. "Pre- to Post-Migration Occupational Mobility of First Generation Immigrants to Sweden from 1970–1990: Examining the Influence of Linguistic Distance," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer, vol. 32(3), pages 437-467, June.
  2. Pierpaolo Parrotta & Dario Pozzoli & Mariola Pytlikova, 2011. "Does Labor Diversity affect Firm Productivity?," Norface Discussion Paper Series 2011022, Norface Research Programme on Migration, Department of Economics, University College London.
  3. Ingo Eduard Isphording & Sebastian Otten, 2013. "The Costs of Babylon—Linguistic Distance in Applied Economics," Review of International Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 21(2), pages 354-369, 05.
  4. Alicia Adsera & Mariola Pytlikova, 2012. "The role of language in shaping international migration," CReAM Discussion Paper Series 1206, Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM), Department of Economics, University College London.
  5. Chiswick, Barry R. & Miller, Paul W., 2014. "International Migration and the Economics of Language," IZA Discussion Papers 7880, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  6. Isphording, Ingo E., 2013. "Disadvantages of Linguistic Origin: Evidence from Immigrant Literacy Scores," IZA Discussion Papers 7360, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  7. Bredtmann, Julia & Otten, Sebastian, 2013. "The Role of Source- and Host-Country Characteristics in Female Immigrant Labor Supply," MPRA Paper 44544, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  8. Parrotta, Pierpaolo & Pozzoli, Dario & Pytlikova, Mariola, 2014. "Labor diversity and firm productivity," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 66(C), pages 144-179.
  9. Bloemen, Hans, 2013. "Language Proficiency of Migrants: The Relation with Job Satisfaction and Matching," IZA Discussion Papers 7366, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

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