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Immigrant Language Fluency in the Low-Skilled Labor Market


  • Ana Damas de Matos


Using longitudinal linked employer-employee data, the author investigates the returns to being a native speaker for immigrant men in the low-skilled labor market. She compares the two main recent immigrant groups in Portugal: Brazilians, who are Portuguese native speakers, and Eastern Europeans, who are not. Findings show that both wage level and wage growth of the two groups are similar. To better understand this surprising result, the author studies two mechanisms through which language fluency may lead to higher wages: sorting across occupations and across firms. Brazilians do sort into occupations that require greater language skills; however, this does not translate into a wage premium. Considerable workplace segregation occurs in Portugal, but Brazilians are not less segregated from natives than are Eastern Europeans. Evidence in this article suggests that language skills are not a major driver of economic assimilation in the low-skilled labor market.

Suggested Citation

  • Ana Damas de Matos, 2017. "Immigrant Language Fluency in the Low-Skilled Labor Market," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 70(5), pages 1176-1195, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:ilrrev:v:70:y:2017:i:5:p:1176-1195

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