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Modeling Immigrants' Language Skills

  • Chiswick, Barry R.

    ()

    (George Washington University)

  • Miller, Paul W.

    (Curtin University)

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.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 2974.

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Length: 62 pages
Date of creation: Aug 2007
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: Research in Labor Economics, 2008, 27, 75-128
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp2974
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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, vol. 15(1), pages 31-57.
  2. 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, 09.
  3. 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).
  4. 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.
  5. Barry R. Chiswick & Yew Liang Lee & Paul W. Miller, 2002. "Immigrants' Language Skills and Visa Category," Economics Discussion / Working Papers 02-05, The University of Western Australia, Department of Economics.
  6. 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.
  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, 09.
  8. Barry Chiswick & Paul Miller, 2001. "A model of destination-language acquisition: Application to male immigrants in Canada," Demography, Springer, vol. 38(3), pages 391-409, August.
  9. Chiswick, Barry R. & Lee, Yew Liang & Miller, Paul W., 2002. "Family Matters: The Role of the Family in Immigrants' Destination Language Acquisition," IZA Discussion Papers 460, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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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