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The Critical Period Hypothesis for Language Learning: What the 2000 US Census Says

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  • Chiswick, Barry R.

    () (George Washington University)

  • Miller, Paul W.

    (Curtin University)

Abstract

A critical period for language learning is often defined as a sharp decline in learning outcomes with age. This study examines the relevance of the critical period to English proficiency among immigrants in the US. It uses microdata from the 2000 US Census, a model of language acquisition from the economics and sociology literatures, and a flexible specification of an estimating equation based on 64 age-at-migration dichotomous variables. It shows that self-reported English language speaking proficiency among immigrants declines more-or-less monotonically with age at migration, and this relationship is not characterized by any sharp decline or discontinuity that might be considered consistent with a “critical” period. The findings are robust across the various immigrant samples, and between the genders.

Suggested Citation

  • Chiswick, Barry R. & Miller, Paul W., 2007. "The Critical Period Hypothesis for Language Learning: What the 2000 US Census Says," IZA Discussion Papers 2575, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp2575
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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.
    2. Victor Ginsburgh & Ignacio Ortuño-Ortín & Shlomo Weber, 2005. "Disenfranchisement In Linguistically Diverse Societies: The Case Of The European Union," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 3(4), pages 946-965, June.
    3. Chiswick, Barry R. & Miller, Paul W., 2003. "The complementarity of language and other human capital: immigrant earnings in Canada," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 22(5), pages 469-480, October.
    4. Kalena E. Cortes, 2004. "Are Refugees Different from Economic Immigrants? Some Empirical Evidence on the Heterogeneity of Immigrant Groups in the United States," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 86(2), pages 465-480, May.
    5. Barry Chiswick & Yew Lee & Paul Miller, 2005. "Family matters: the role of the family in immigrants' destination language acquisition," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 18(4), pages 631-647, November.
    6. Chiswick, Barry R. & Miller, Paul W., 2007. "Modeling Immigrants' Language Skills," IZA Discussion Papers 2974, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    7. Barry Chiswick & Yew Lee & Paul Miller, 2005. "“Parents and Children Talk: English Language Proficiency within Immigrant Families”," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 3(3), pages 243-268, September.
    8. 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).
    9. Cortes, Kalena E., 2004. "Are Refugees Different from Economic Immigrants? Some Empirical Evidence on the Heterogeneity of Immigrant Groups in the United States," IZA Discussion Papers 1063, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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    Cited by:

    1. LUIS LOCAY & TRACY L. REGAN & ARTHUR M. DIAMOND Jr, 2013. "The Effects Of Spanish-Language Background On Completed Schooling And Aptitude Test Scores," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 51(1), pages 527-562, January.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    immigrants; critical period hypothesis; second language learning;

    JEL classification:

    • F22 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - International Migration
    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination

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