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Computer Skills, Destination Language Proficiency and the Earnings of Natives and Immigrants


  • Chiswick, Barry R.

    () (George Washington University)

  • Miller, Paul W.

    (Curtin University)


Using data from the 2001 Census of Population and Housing in Australia, this paper investigates the determinants, and consequences for earnings, of computer use by both the native born and the foreign born. Focussing on the foreign born, the multivariate analyses show that recent arrivals are more likely to use computers than the Australian born. As the level of computer use in Australia is much higher than in most of the countries that Australia's immigrants come from, this evidence suggests a high degree of favorable selection in migration. Study of the links between earnings, computer use and other human capital skills shows that educational attainment and destination language skills are complements to computer use. The use of a computer is shown to be a way the foreign born can increase the international transferability of their pre-immigration skills, a finding that has implications for immigrant settlement policies.

Suggested Citation

  • Chiswick, Barry R. & Miller, Paul W., 2005. "Computer Skills, Destination Language Proficiency and the Earnings of Natives and Immigrants," IZA Discussion Papers 1755, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp1755

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Christian Dustmann & Arthur van Soest, 2001. "Language Fluency And Earnings: Estimation With Misclassified Language Indicators," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 83(4), pages 663-674, November.
    2. Borghans, Lex & ter Weel, Bas, 2004. "Are computer skills the new basic skills? The returns to computer, writing and math skills in Britain," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 11(1), pages 85-98, February.
    3. Chiswick, Barry R, 1978. "The Effect of Americanization on the Earnings of Foreign-born Men," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(5), pages 897-921, October.
    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 246-288, April.
    5. Peter Dolton & Gerry Makepeace, 2004. "Computer Use and Earnings in Britain," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 114(494), pages 117-129, March.
    6. G. R. Arabsheibani & J. M. Emami & A. Marin, 2004. "The Impact of Computer Use On Earnings in the UK," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, vol. 51(1), pages 82-94, February.
    7. Liu, Jin-Tan & Tsou, Meng-Wen & Hammitt, James K., 2004. "Computer use and wages: evidence from Taiwan," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 82(1), pages 43-51, January.
    8. Miller, Paul & Mulvey, Charles, 1997. "Computer Skills and Wages," Australian Economic Papers, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 36(68), pages 106-113, June.
    9. Ernest P. Goss & Joseph M. Phillips, 2002. "How Information Technology Affects Wages: Evidence Using Internet Usage As a Proxy for IT Skills," Journal of Labor Research, Transaction Publishers, vol. 23(3), pages 463-474, July.
    10. Richard Fry & B. Lindsay Lowell, 2003. "The Value of Bilingualism in the U.S. Labor Market," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 57(1), pages 128-140, October.
    11. Paul W. Miller & Leanne M. Neo, 2003. "Labour Market Flexibility and Immigrant Adjustment," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 79(246), pages 336-356, September.
    12. Chiswick, Barry R & Miller, Paul W, 1985. "Immigrant Generation and Income in Australia," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 61(173), pages 540-553, June.
    13. Baker, Michael & Benjamin, Dwayne, 1994. "The Performance of Immigrants in the Canadian Labor Market," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 12(3), pages 369-405, July.
    14. Chiswick, Barry R, 1977. "Sons of Immigrants: Are They at an Earnings Disadvantage?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(1), pages 376-380, February.
    15. John E. DiNardo & Jörn-Steffen Pischke, 1997. "The Returns to Computer Use Revisited: Have Pencils Changed the Wage Structure Too?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(1), pages 291-303.
    16. Derby Voon & Paul W. Miller, 2005. "Undereducation and Overeducation in the Australian Labour Market," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 81(s1), pages 22-33, August.
    17. Halvorsen, Robert & Palmquist, Raymond, 1980. "The Interpretation of Dummy Variables in Semilogarithmic Equations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 70(3), pages 474-475, June.
    18. Chiswick, Barry R. & Miller, Paul W., 2004. "Linguistic Distance: A Quantitative Measure of the Distance Between English and Other Languages," IZA Discussion Papers 1246, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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    Cited by:

    1. Alicia Adsera & Mariola Pytlikova, 2012. "The role of language in shaping international migration," CReAM Discussion Paper Series 1206, Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM), Department of Economics, University College London.
    2. Ono, Hiroshi & Zavodny, Madeline, 2007. "Immigrants, English Ability and the Digital Divide," IZA Discussion Papers 3124, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Chiswick, Barry R., 2008. "The Economics of Language: An Introduction and Overview," IZA Discussion Papers 3568, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

    More about this item


    earnings; language; immigrants; internet; computers;

    JEL classification:

    • F22 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - International Migration
    • D13 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Production and Intrahouse Allocation
    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • J61 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers

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