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Unilingual Versus Bilingual Education: A Political Economy Analysis

  • Javier Ortega
  • Thomas P. Tangerås

We consider an economy with two language groups, where only agents who share a language can produce together. Schooling enhances the productivity of students. Individuals attending a unilingual school end up speaking the language of instruction only, whereas bilingual schools render individuals bilingual at the same cost. The politically dominant group (not necessarily the majority) chooses the type(s) of schools accessible to each language group, and then individuals decide whether to attend school. We show that the dominant either choose laissez-faire or restrict access to schools in the language of the dominated. Instead, the dominated favour the use of their own language. Thus, although agents do not derive utility from speaking their mother tongue, language conflicts of the expected type endogenously arise. Democracy (majority rule) always leads to the implementation of a socially optimal education system, whereas restrictions to the use of the language of the dominated are implemented too often under minority rule. The model is consistent with evidence from Belgium, France, and Finland. (JEL: I2, J15) (c) 2008 by the European Economic Association.

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Article provided by MIT Press in its journal Journal of the European Economic Association.

Volume (Year): 6 (2008)
Issue (Month): 5 (09)
Pages: 1078-1108

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Handle: RePEc:tpr:jeurec:v:6:y:2008:i:5:p:1078-1108
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