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The English-Language Proficiency of Recent Immigrants in the U.S. During the Early 1900s


  • Anthony P. Mora

    (Texas A&M University)

  • Marie T. Mora

    () (University of Texas - Pan American)

  • Alberto Davila

    (University of Texas - Pan American)


Using U.S. decennial census data, we find that in 1920, immigrants (particularly those from Southern and Eastern Europe) were more likely to speak the English language within three years of migrating than their counterparts had been in either 1900 or 1910. Our results suggest that the foreign-born reacted to socioeconomic and political events by learning English before or shortly after migrating to the U.S. This study not only provides previously unknown information about immigrants’ English fluency in the early twentieth century, but it also offers empirical insight into the assimilation pressures that certain immigrant groups experienced at the time.

Suggested Citation

  • Anthony P. Mora & Marie T. Mora & Alberto Davila, 2007. "The English-Language Proficiency of Recent Immigrants in the U.S. During the Early 1900s," Eastern Economic Journal, Eastern Economic Association, vol. 33(1), pages 65-80, Winter.
  • Handle: RePEc:eej:eeconj:v:33:y:2007:i:1:p:65-80

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. 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 246-288, April.
    2. Cohn, Raymond L., 2000. "Nativism and the End of the Mass Migration of the 1840s and 1850s," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 60(02), pages 361-383, June.
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