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Language Proficiency and Labour Market Performance of Immigrants in the UK

  • Dustmann, Christian
  • Fabbri, Francesca

This paper uses two recent UK surveys to investigate labour market performance, the determinants of language proficiency, and the effect of language on earnings and employment probabilities of non-white immigrants. Our results show that language acquisition, employment probabilities, as well as earnings differ widely across non-white immigrants, according to their ethnic origin. Language has a strong and positive effect on employment probabilities. Furthermore, lack of English fluency leads to substantial earnings losses for immigrants. While earnings of white and ethnic minority natives develop in a similar manner, there is a large earnings gap between these two groups, and ethnic minority immigrants. English fluency contributes considerably to reducing these differences. Addressing the problems of measurement error and unobserved heterogeneity in language variables, our results indicate that measurement error in the language variable leads to underestimation of the importance of language for employment probabilities and earnings in straightforward regressions. In comparison with results found for other countries, language proficiency seems to be more important for labour market outcomes of UK immigrants.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 2487.

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Date of creation: Jun 2000
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:2487
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  1. Nickell, Stephen J, 1980. "A Picture of Male Unemployment in Britain," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 90(363), pages 776-94, December.
  2. Hatton, Timothy J. & Wheatley Price, Stephen, 1998. "Migration, Migrants and Policy in the United Kingdom," CEPR Discussion Papers 1960, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. George J. Borjas, 1994. "The Economics of Immigration," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 32(4), pages 1667-1717, December.
  4. Blackaby, David H, et al, 1997. "A Picture of Male and Female Unemployment among Britain's Ethnic Minorities," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, vol. 44(2), pages 182-97, May.
  5. Lorraine Dearden, 1999. "Qualifications and earnings in Britain: how reliable are conventional OLS estimates of the returns to education?," IFS Working Papers W99/07, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  6. Chiswick, Barry R & Miller, Paul W, 1995. "The Endogeneity between Language and Earnings: International Analyses," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 13(2), pages 246-88, April.
  7. Dustmann, Christian, 1994. "Speaking Fluency, Writing Fluency and Earnings of Migrants," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 7(2), pages 133-56.
  8. Stewart, Mark B, 1982. "On Least Squares Estimation when the Dependent Variable is Grouped," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 207, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  9. Chiswick, Barry R, 1980. "The Earnings of White and Coloured Male Immigrants in Britain," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 47(185), pages 81-87, February.
  10. Michael A Shields & Stephen Wheatley Price, . "The English Language Fluency and Occupational Success of Ethnic Minority Immigrant Men Living in English Metropolitan Areas," Discussion Papers in Public Sector Economics 99/4, Department of Economics, University of Leicester.
  11. Eckstein, Z. & Weiss, Y., 1999. "The Integration of Immigrants from the Former Soviet Union in the Israeli Labor Market," Papers 33-99, Tel Aviv.
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