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The Value of Bilingualism in the U.S. Labor Market

Author

Listed:
  • Richard Fry
  • B. Lindsay Lowell

Abstract

Much is surmised, but little is known about the value of bilingualism in today's U.S. economy. The authors use the National Adult Literacy Survey (NALS) to provide the first rigorous estimates of the wages of bilingual workers. Although the nominal wages of bilinguals exceed those of their monolingual peers, this pattern largely reflects the higher completed schooling of the bilinguals. In fact, regression analysis shows that bilingual skills do not make a statistically significant contribution to weekly wages, once all workers' human capital characteristics are held constant. Thus, the market little values foreign language proficiency and creates no incentive to acquire or maintain it, doubtless contributing to the relatively rapid shift to monolingualism across generations.

Suggested Citation

  • Richard Fry & B. Lindsay Lowell, 2003. "The Value of Bilingualism in the U.S. Labor Market," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 57(1), pages 128-140, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:ilrrev:v:57:y:2003:i:1:p:128-140
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Wang, Zhiling & de Graaff, Thomas & Nijkamp, Peter, 2017. "Look Who’s Talking: On the Heterogeneous Returns to Foreign Language Use at Work among Natives and Migrants in Europe," GLO Discussion Paper Series 104, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
    2. Barry Chiswick & Paul Miller, 2007. "Computer usage, destination language proficiency and the earnings of natives and immigrants," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 5(2), pages 129-157, June.
    3. repec:eee:ecoedu:v:60:y:2017:i:c:p:142-158 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Chiswick, Barry R. & Miller, Paul W., 2008. "Why is the payoff to schooling smaller for immigrants?," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(6), pages 1317-1340, December.
    5. Stöhr, Tobias, 2015. "The returns to occupational foreign language use: Evidence from Germany," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(C), pages 86-98.
    6. Melitz, Jacques, 2012. "A framework for analyzing language and welfare," CEPR Discussion Papers 9091, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    7. Victor Ginsburgh & Jacques Melitz & Farid Toubal, 2014. "Foreign Language Learning : An Econometric Analysis," Working Papers 2014-21, Center for Research in Economics and Statistics.
    8. Juan Carlos Jiménez Redondo, 2006. "La Economía de la lengua: una visión de conjunto," Documentos de Trabajo del Instituto Complutense de Estudios Internacionales 01-06, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Instituto Complutense de Estudios Internacionales.
    9. Muravyev, Alexander & Talavera, Oleksandr, 2016. "Can state language policies distort students’ demand for education?," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(2), pages 383-399.
    10. Barry Chiswick & Paul Miller, 2010. "Occupational language requirements and the value of English in the US labor market," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 23(1), pages 353-372, January.
    11. 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.
    12. Giuseppe Sorrenti, 2017. "The Spanish or the German Apartment? Study Abroad and the Acquisition of Permanent Skills," CHILD Working Papers Series 46 JEL Classification: I2, Centre for Household, Income, Labour and Demographic Economics (CHILD) - CCA.
    13. Chiswick, Barry R. & Miller, Paul W., 2005. "Computer Skills, Destination Language Proficiency and the Earnings of Natives and Immigrants," IZA Discussion Papers 1755, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    14. repec:edn:sirdps:433 is not listed on IDEAS
    15. Donald R. Williams, 2011. "Multiple language usage and earnings in Western Europe," International Journal of Manpower, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 32(4), pages 372-393, July.
    16. Paul Miller, 2009. "The Gender Pay Gap in the US: Does Sector Make a Difference?," Journal of Labor Research, Springer, vol. 30(1), pages 52-74, March.

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