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The effects of official English laws on limited-English-proficient workers

  • Madeline Zavodny

Workers with limited English skills may suffer adverse effects in the labor market when states declare English the official language. If employers view official English laws as allowing or requiring them to adopt workplace English-only rules that lower the demand for limited-English-proficient workers, such laws may harm individuals who do not speak English very well. Using data from the 1980 and 1990 Census, I estimate whether the earnings and other labor market outcomes of workers who have limited English proficiency and live in states that adopted official English laws declined relative to other workers'. The results suggest a substantial decline in the annual earnings of men with limited English proficiency.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta in its series Working Paper with number 98-4.

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Date of creation: 1998
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in Journal of Labor Economics, July 2000
Handle: RePEc:fip:fedawp:98-4
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  1. Gilles Grenier, 1984. "The Effects of Language Characteristics on the Wages of Hispanic-American Males," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 19(1), pages 35-52.
  2. Gruber, Jonathan, 1994. "The Incidence of Mandated Maternity Benefits," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(3), pages 622-41, June.
  3. 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.
  4. Geoffrey Carliner, 1996. "The Wages and Language Skills of U.S. Immigrants," NBER Working Papers 5763, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Evelina Tainer, 1988. "English Language Proficiency and the Determination of Earnings among Foreign-Born Men," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 23(1), pages 108-122.
  6. John M. Abowd & Richard B. Freeman, 1991. "Immigration, Trade, and the Labor Market," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number abow91-1, 07.
  7. Trejo, Stephen J, 1997. "Why Do Mexican Americans Earn Low Wages?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(6), pages 1235-68, December.
  8. Chiswick, Barry R, 1991. "Speaking, Reading, and Earnings among Low-Skilled Immigrants," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 9(2), pages 149-70, April.
  9. Jonathan Gruber & James M. Poterba, 1993. "Tax Incentives and the Decision to Purchase Health Insurance: Evidence from the Self-Employed," NBER Working Papers 4435, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Matsusaka, John G, 1992. "Economics of Direct Legislation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 107(2), pages 541-71, May.
  11. 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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