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A Framework for Analyzing Language and Welfare

  • Jacques Melitz

The paper proposes a general model that will encompass trade and social benefits of a common language, a preference for a variety of languages, the fundamental role of translators, an emo-tional attachment to maternal language, and the threat that globalization poses to the vast ma-jority of languages. With respect to people’s emotional attachment, the model considers minor-ities to suffer losses from the subordinate status of their language. In addition, the model treats the threat to minority language as coming from the failure of the parents in the minority to transmit their maternal language (durably) to their children. Some familiar results occur. In particular, we encounter the usual social inefficiencies of decentralized solutions to language learning when the sole benefits of the learning are communicative benefits (though translation intervenes). However, these social inefficiencies assume a totally different air when the con-sumer gains of variety are brought in. One fundamental aim of the paper is to bring together contributions to the economics of language from labor economics, network externalities and international trade that are typically treated separately.

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Paper provided by Department of Economics, School of Management and Languages, Heriot Watt University in its series Heriot-Watt University Economics Discussion Papers with number 1212.

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Date of creation: 2012
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Handle: RePEc:hwe:hwuedp:1212
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Web page: http://www.sml.hw.ac.uk/departments/accountancy-economics-finance.htm

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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 101-30, April.
  2. Christian Dustmann & Arthur Van Soest, 2002. "Language and the earnings of immigrants," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 55(3), pages 473-492, April.
  3. Christian Dustmann & Francesca Fabbri, 2003. "Language proficiency and labour market performance of immigrants in the UK," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 113(489), pages 695-717, 07.
  4. Gould, David M, 1994. "Immigrant Links to the Home Country: Empirical Implications for U.S. Bilateral Trade Flows," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 76(2), pages 302-16, May.
  5. GINSBURGH, Victor A. & WEBER, Shlomo & WEYERS, Sheila, . "The economics of literary translation: some theory and evidence," CORE Discussion Papers RP -2319, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  6. Ginsburgh, Victor & Ortuño-Ortín, Ignacio & Weber, Shlomo, 2005. "Learning Foreign Languages.Theoretical and Empirical Implications of the Selten and Pool Model," CEPR Discussion Papers 4942, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  7. Jeffrey Church & Ian King, 1993. "Bilingualism and Network Externalities," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 26(2), pages 337-45, May.
  8. Bisin, A. & Verdier, T., 1997. "The Economics of Cultural Transmission and the Dynamics of Preferences," DELTA Working Papers 97-03, DELTA (Ecole normale supérieure).
  9. Louis N. Christofides & Robert Swidinsky, 2010. "The Economic Returns to the Knowledge and Use of a Second Official Language: English in Quebec and French in the Rest-of-Canada," University of Cyprus Working Papers in Economics 04-2010, University of Cyprus Department of Economics.
  10. Edward P. Lazear, 1999. "Culture and Language," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(S6), pages S95-S126, December.
  11. Barry Chiswick & Paul Miller, 2007. "Computer usage, destination language proficiency and the earnings of natives and immigrants," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 5(2), pages 129-157, June.
  12. Victor Ginsburgh & Shlomo Weber, 2011. "How many languages do we need? The economics of Linguistic Diversity," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/152424, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  13. Barry R. Chiswick & Paul W. Miller, 1999. "Immigrant Earnings: Language Skills, Linguistic Concentrations and the Business Cycle," University of Chicago - George G. Stigler Center for Study of Economy and State 152, Chicago - Center for Study of Economy and State.
  14. Weitzman, M.L., 1991. "On Diversity," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1553, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  15. Lang, Kevin, 1986. "A Language Theory of Discrimination," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 101(2), pages 363-82, May.
  16. Weitzman, M.L., 1992. "Diversity Functions," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1610, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  17. GINSBURGH, Victor & PRIETO-RODRIGUEZ, Juan, 2007. "Returns to foreign languages of native workers in the EU," CORE Discussion Papers 2007021, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  18. Olivier, Jacques & Thoenig, Mathias & Verdier, Thierry, 2008. "Globalization and the dynamics of cultural identity," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 76(2), pages 356-370, December.
  19. Tamura, Robert, 2001. "Translators: Market makers in merging markets," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 25(11), pages 1775-1800, November.
  20. Shlomo Weber & Jean Gabszewicz & Victor Ginsburgh, 2008. "Bilingualism and Communicative Benefits," Working Papers 2008.17, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
  21. Richard Fry & B. Lindsay Lowell, 2003. "The value of bilingualism in the U.S. labor market," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 57(1), pages 128-141, October.
  22. 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.
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