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English language proficiency and earnings in a developing country: The case of South Africa

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  • Casale, Daniela
  • Posel, Dorrit

Abstract

In this paper we explore the relationship between English language proficiency and earnings in South Africa, using new data from the first wave of the National Income Dynamics panel survey of 2008. Much of the literature on this topic has studied the impact on earnings of host country language acquisition among minority groups of immigrants to developed countries. In our study we analyse the returns to language skills in a developing country context where the dominant language of business, government and education is that of the former colony, although not more than one percent of the African majority population group speaks English as their home language. Our findings suggest large returns among Africans to reading and writing English very well, and particularly among those who have a tertiary education. We also briefly consider the implications of these results for language and education policy in South Africa in the post-apartheid period.

Suggested Citation

  • Casale, Daniela & Posel, Dorrit, 2011. "English language proficiency and earnings in a developing country: The case of South Africa," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 40(4), pages 385-393, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:soceco:v:40:y:2011:i:4:p:385-393
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Antonio Di Paolo & Aysit Tansel, 2015. "Returns to Foreign Language Skills in a Developing Country: The Case of Turkey," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 51(4), pages 407-421, April.
    2. Oh, Chang Hoon & Travis Selmier, W. & Lien, Donald, 2011. "International trade, foreign direct investment, and transaction costs in languages," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 40(6), pages 732-735.
    3. Taylor, Stephen & von Fintel, Marisa, 2016. "Estimating the impact of language of instruction in South African primary schools: A fixed effects approach," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 50(C), pages 75-89.
    4. Ivlevs, Artjoms & King, Roswitha M., 2014. "2004 Minority Education Reform and pupil performance in Latvia," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 38(C), pages 151-166.
    5. Budría, Santiago & Swedberg, Pablo, 2014. "The Impact of Multilingualism on Spanish Language Acquisition among Immigrants in Spain," IZA Discussion Papers 8748, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    6. repec:bla:labour:v:31:y:2017:i:3:p:265-287 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Wang, Haining & Smyth, Russell & Cheng, Zhiming, 2017. "The economic returns to proficiency in English in China," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 43(C), pages 91-104.
    8. Haroon Bhorat & Morné Oosthuizen & Kezia Lilenstein & François Steenkamp, 2017. "Firm-level determinants of earnings in the formal sector of the South African labour market," WIDER Working Paper Series 025, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    9. Wang, Haining & Cheng, Zhiming & Smyth, Russell, 2016. "Language and consumption," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 135-151.

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