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The Effects of English Proficiency among Childhood Immigrants: Are Hispanics Different?

  • Mevlude Akbulut-Yuksel

    ()

    (Dalhousie University)

  • Hoyt Bleakley

    ()

    (University of Chicago Booth School of Business)

  • Aimee Chin

    ()

    (University of Houston)

We test whether the effect of English proficiency differs between Hispanic and non-Hispanic immigrants. Using 2000 U.S. Census microdata on immigrants who arrived before age 15, we relate labor market, education, marriage, fertility and location of residence variables to their age at arrival in the U.S., and in particular whether that age fell within the "critical period" of language acquisition. We interpret the observed difference in outcomes between childhood immigrants who arrive during the critical period and those who arrive later (adjusted for non-language-related age-at-arrival effects using childhood immigrants from English-speaking countries) as an effect of English- language skills and construct an instrumental variable for English-language skills. We find that both Hispanics and nonHispanics exhibit lower English proficiency if they arrive after the critical period, but this drop in English proficiency is larger for Hispanics. The effect of English proficiency on earnings and education is nevertheless quite similar across groups, while some differences are seen for marriage, fertility, and location of residence outcomes. In particular, although higher English proficiency reduces (for both groups) the number of children and the propensity to be married, marry someone with the same birthplace or origin, and live in an "ethnic enclave," these effects are smaller for Hispanics.

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Paper provided by Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM), Department of Economics, University College London in its series CReAM Discussion Paper Series with number 1007.

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Date of creation: May 2010
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Handle: RePEc:crm:wpaper:1007
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  1. Brian Duncan & Stephen J. Trejo, 2005. "Ethnic Identification, Intermarriage, and Unmeasured Progress by Mexican Americans," NBER Working Papers 11423, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Hoyt Bleakley & Aimee Chin, 2004. "Language Skills and Earnings: Evidence from Childhood Immigrants," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 86(2), pages 481-496, May.
  3. Hoyt Bleakley & Aimee Chin, 2009. "Age at Arrival, English Proficiency, and Social Assimilation Among U.S. Immigrants," CReAM Discussion Paper Series 0913, Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM), Department of Economics, University College London.
  4. 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.
  5. Gray Swicegood & Frank Bean & Elizabeth Stephen & Wolfgang Opitz, 1988. "Language usage and fertility in the Mexican-origin population of the United States," Demography, Springer, vol. 25(1), pages 17-33, February.
  6. Hoyt Bleakley & Aimee Chin, 2008. "What Holds Back the Second Generation?: The Intergenerational Transmission of Language Human Capital Among Immigrants," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 43(2), pages 267-298.
  7. Xin Meng & Robert G. Gregory, 2005. "Intermarriage and the Economic Assimilation of Immigrants," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 23(1), pages 135-176, January.
  8. 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 101-30, April.
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