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Modeling Immigrants' Language Skills

Author

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  • Chiswick, Barry R.

    (George Washington University)

  • Miller, Paul W.

    (Curtin University)

Abstract

One in nine people between the ages of 18 and 64 in the US, and every second foreign-born person in this age bracket, speaks Spanish at home. And whereas around 80 percent of adult immigrants in the US from non-English speaking countries other than Mexico are proficient in English, only about 50 percent of adult immigrants from Mexico are proficient. The use of a language other than English at home, and proficiency in English, are both analyzed in this paper using economic models and data from the 2000 US Census. The results demonstrate the importance of immigrants’ educational attainment, their age at migration and years spent in the US to their language skills. The immigrants’ mother tongue is also shown to affect their English proficiency; immigrants with a mother tongue more distant from English being less likely to be proficient. Finally, immigrants living in ethnic enclaves have lesser proficiency in English than immigrants who live in predominately English-speaking areas of the US. The results for females are generally very similar to those for males, the findings from an ordered probit approach to estimation are similar to the findings from a binary probit model, and the conclusions drawn from the analyses mirror those in studies based on the 1980 and 1990 US Censuses. Thus, the model of language skills presented appears to be remarkably robust across time and between the genders.

Suggested Citation

  • Chiswick, Barry R. & Miller, Paul W., 2007. "Modeling Immigrants' Language Skills," IZA Discussion Papers 2974, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp2974
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Paul W. Miller & Barry R. Chiswick, 2002. "Immigrant earnings: Language skills, linguistic concentrations and the business cycle," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 15(1), pages 31-57.
    2. B.R. Chiswick & P.W. Miller, 2000. "Do Enclaves Matter in Immigrant Adjustment?," Economics Discussion / Working Papers 00-19, The University of Western Australia, Department of Economics.
    3. Chiswick, Barry R. & Lee, Yew Liang & Miller, Paul W., 2002. "Immigrants' Language Skills and Visa Category," IZA Discussion Papers 471, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    4. 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.
    5. 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.
    6. Barry Chiswick & Paul Miller, 2001. "A model of destination-language acquisition: Application to male immigrants in Canada," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 38(3), pages 391-409, August.
    7. Chiswick, Barry R, 1991. "Speaking, Reading, and Earnings among Low-Skilled Immigrants," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 9(2), pages 149-170, April.
    8. 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.
    9. 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 101-130, April.
    10. 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.
    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., 2004. "Linguistic Distance: A Quantitative Measure of the Distance Between English and Other Languages," IZA Discussion Papers 1246, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Jan Fidrmuc & Jarko Fidrmuc, 2009. "Foreign Languages and Trade," CEDI Discussion Paper Series 09-03, Centre for Economic Development and Institutions(CEDI), Brunel University.
    2. Isphording, Ingo E. & Otten, Sebastian, 2014. "Linguistic barriers in the destination language acquisition of immigrants," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 105(C), pages 30-50.
    3. repec:zbw:rwirep:0274 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Aldashev, Alisher & Gernandt, Johannes & Thomsen, Stephan L., 2009. "Language usage, participation, employment and earnings: Evidence for foreigners in West Germany with multiple sources of selection," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(3), pages 330-341, June.
    5. 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 of Labor Economics (IZA).
    6. Chiswick, Barry R., 2008. "The Economics of Language: An Introduction and Overview," IZA Discussion Papers 3568, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    7. Galloway, Taryn Ann & Gjefsen, Hege Marie, 2020. "Assimilation of immigrants: Does earlier school exposure matter?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 76(C).

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    language; human capital; enclaves; immigrants;
    All these keywords.

    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
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J40 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - General

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