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A spatial economic perspective on language acquisition: segregation, networking, and assimilation of immigrants

  • Raymond J G M Florax
  • Thomas de Graaff
  • Brigitte S Waldorf

Immigration and multiculturalism are at the heart of modern Western societies. The issue of language acquisition of immigrants is intrinsically linked to immigration. We formally link language acquisition of immigrants to the relative size of the immigrant stock, employing a microeconomic trading framework. Our model allows for spatial interaction going beyond the immigrant’s area of residence, and explicitly incorporates spatial segregation. In addition, behavioral differences of immigrants with respect to their level of assimilation into the host country, as well as differences in networking within their own ethnic community, are accounted for. We test our model for four non-Western immigrant groups in the Netherlands at two different spatial scale levels. The empirical results reveal that there is only ambiguous support for the inverse relationship between size of the immigrant community and language acquisition or language proficiency in The Netherlands. We find instead that there is strong support for language acquisition and understanding being positively influenced by assimilation to the host country’s culture.

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Article provided by Pion Ltd, London in its journal Environment and Planning A.

Volume (Year): 37 (2005)
Issue (Month): 10 (October)
Pages: 1877-1897

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Handle: RePEc:pio:envira:v:37:y:2005:i:10:p:1877-1897
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  1. Brigitte S. Waldorf, 1993. "Segregation in Urban Space: A New Measurement Approach," Urban Studies, Urban Studies Journal Limited, vol. 30(7), pages 1151-1164, August.
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  7. Barry R. Chiswick & Paul W. Miller, 1999. "Immigrant Earnings: Language Skills, Linguistic Concentrations and the Business Cycle," University of Chicago - George G. Stigler Center for Study of Economy and State 152, Chicago - Center for Study of Economy and State.
  8. George J. Borjas, 1994. "Ethnicity, Neighborhoods, and Human Capital Externalities," NBER Working Papers 4912, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Per-Anders Edin & Peter Fredriksson & Olof Åslund, 2003. "Ethnic Enclaves and the Economic Success of Immigrants—Evidence from a Natural Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(1), pages 329-357.
  10. Carrington, William J & Detragiache, Enrica & Vishwanath, Tara, 1996. "Migration with Endogenous Moving Costs," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(4), pages 909-30, September.
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  13. Bartel, Ann P, 1989. "Where Do the New U.S. Immigrants Live?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 7(4), pages 371-91, October.
  14. Thomas de Graaff & Cees Gorter & Peter Nijkamp, 2001. "Effects of Ethnic Geographical Clustering on Educational Attainment in the Netherlands," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 01-028/3, Tinbergen Institute.
  15. Paul W. Miller & Barry R. Chiswick, 1999. "Language skills and earnings among legalized aliens," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 12(1), pages 63-89.
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