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Economic Returns to Speaking the Right Language(s)? Evidence from Kazakhstan's Shift in State Language and Language of Instruction

Author

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  • Alisher Aldashev
  • Alexander M. Danzer

Abstract

This paper investigates the economic returns to language skills and bilingualism. The analysis is staged in Kazakhstan, a multi-ethnic country with complex ethnic settlement patterns that has switched its official state language from Russian to Kazakh. Using two newly assembled data sets, we find negative returns to speaking Kazakh and a negative effect of bilingualism on earnings while Russian was the official state language in the 1990s. Surprisingly, the Kazakh language continues to yield a negative wage premium 13 years after it has been made official state language. While we do neither find evidence for an ethnically segmented labor market nor for reverse causality, the low economic value of the Kazakh language can be explained by the comparatively poor quality of schools with Kazakh as language of instruction. Based on PISA data, we illustrate that scholastic achievements are substantially lower for pupils taught in Kazakh, despite the official support for the titular language. Our results suggest that switching the official state language without appropriate investments in school resources is unlikely to cure the economic disadvantage of a previously marginalized language.

Suggested Citation

  • Alisher Aldashev & Alexander M. Danzer, 2014. "Economic Returns to Speaking the Right Language(s)? Evidence from Kazakhstan's Shift in State Language and Language of Instruction," CESifo Working Paper Series 5086, CESifo Group Munich.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_5086
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. McManus, Walter & Gould, William & Welch, Finis, 1983. "Earnings of Hispanic Men: The Role of English Language Proficiency," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 1(2), pages 101-130, April.
    2. Andrew Henley & Rhian Eleri Jones, 2005. "Earnings And Linguistic Proficiency In A Bilingual Economy," Manchester School, University of Manchester, vol. 73(3), pages 300-320, June.
    3. Angrist, Joshua D & Lavy, Victor, 1997. "The Effect of a Change in Language of Instruction on the Returns to Schooling in Morocco," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(1), pages 48-76, January.
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    7. Edward P. Lazear, 1999. "Culture and Language," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(S6), pages 95-126, December.
    8. Oriol Aspachs-Bracons & Irma Clots-Figueras & Joan Costa-Font & Paolo Masella, 2008. "Compulsory Language Educational Policies and Identity Formation," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 6(2-3), pages 434-444, 04-05.
    9. Barbara Dietz & Kseniia Gatskova & Achim Schmillen, 2011. "Migration and Remittances in Kazakhstan: First Evidence from a Household Survey," Working Papers 304, Leibniz Institut für Ost- und Südosteuropaforschung (Institute for East and Southeast European Studies).
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:iza:izawol:journl:y:2017:n:416 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Victor Ginsburgh & Shlomo Weber, 2018. "The Economics of Language," Working Papers ECARES 2018-18, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    3. repec:eee:chieco:v:54:y:2019:i:c:p:1-11 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    Keywords

    bilingualism; returns to language skills; wage premium; language policy; language of instruction;

    JEL classification:

    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • P23 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Systems and Transition Economies - - - Factor and Product Markets; Industry Studies; Population
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration

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