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Living and Working in Ethnic Enclaves: Language Proficiency of Immigrants in U.S. Metropolitan Areas

  • Beckhusen, Julia

    ()

    (U.S. Census Bureau)

  • Florax, Raymond J.G.M.

    ()

    (Purdue University)

  • de Graaff, Thomas

    ()

    (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam)

  • Poot, Jacques

    ()

    (University of Waikato)

  • Waldorf, Brigitte

    ()

    (Purdue University)

Learning English is a potentially profitable investment for immigrants in the U.S.: while there are initial costs, the subsequent benefits include the ability to communicate with the majority of the population, potentially leading to better paying jobs and economic success in the new country. These payoffs are lessened if immigrants choose to live and work in ethnic enclaves where the necessity to communicate in English is weak. Ethnic enclaves are widespread and persistent in the U.S. This study uses data from the 2010 American Community Survey to examine the impact of residential and occupational segregation on immigrants' ability to speak English. We allow for heterogeneity in the relationship between segregation and English language proficiency across ethnic groups and focus specifically on Mexican and Chinese immigrants. Our results show that immigrants in the U.S. who live and work among high concentrations of their countrymen are less likely to be proficient in English than those who are less residentially and occupationally segregated. The magnitude of the effect of segregation on language proficiency varies across immigrants' birthplaces and other salient characteristics defining the immigration context.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 6363.

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Length: 25 pages
Date of creation: Feb 2012
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: Papers in Regional Science, 2013, 92(2), 305-328
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp6363
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  1. Florax, Raymond J.G.M. & Graaff, Thomas de & Waldorf, Brigitte S., 2004. "A spatial economic perspective on language acquisition : segregation, networking and assimilation of immigrants," Serie Research Memoranda 0006, VU University Amsterdam, Faculty of Economics, Business Administration and Econometrics.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Eli Berman & Kevin Lang & Erez Siniver, 2000. "Language-Skill Complementarity: Returns to Immigrant Language Acquisition," NBER Working Papers 7737, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Bauer, Thomas K. & Epstein, Gil S. & Gang, Ira N., 2002. "Enclaves, Language and the Location Choice of Migrants," IZA Discussion Papers 558, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  6. Edward P. Lazear, 1995. "Culture and Language," NBER Working Papers 5249, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Paul W. Miller & Barry R. Chiswick, 1999. "Language skills and earnings among legalized aliens," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 12(1), pages 63-89.
  8. Harrie A. A Verbon & Lex Meijdam, 2004. "Too Many Migrants, Too Few Services: A Model of Decision-making on Immigration and Integration with Cultural Distance," CESifo Working Paper Series 1268, CESifo Group Munich.
  9. Chiswick, Barry R. & Lee, Yew Liang & Miller, Paul W., 2002. "The Determinants of the Geographic Concentration among Immigrants: Application to Australia," IZA Discussion Papers 462, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  10. Judith K. Hellerstein & David Neumark, 2002. "Ethnicity, Language, and Workplace Segregation: Evidence from a New Matched Employer-Employee Data Set," NBER Working Papers 9037, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Borjas, George J., 1998. "To Ghetto or Not to Ghetto: Ethnicity and Residential Segregation," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(2), pages 228-253, September.
  12. George J. Borjas, 1994. "The Economics of Immigration," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 32(4), pages 1667-1717, December.
  13. Chiswick, Barry R & Miller, Paul M, 1996. "Ethnic Networks and Language Proficiency among Immigrants," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 9(1), pages 19-35, February.
  14. 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.
  15. Andersson, Fredrik & Burgess, Simon & Lane, Julia, 2009. "Do as the Neighbors Do: The Impact of Social Networks on Immigrant Employment," IZA Discussion Papers 4423, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  16. Dominique M. Gross & Nicolas Schmitt, 2003. "The Role of Cultural Clustering in Attracting New Immigrants," Journal of Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 43(2), pages 295-318.
  17. Barry R. Chiswick, 1998. "Hebrew language usage: Determinants and effects on earnings among immigrants in Israel," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 11(2), pages 253-271.
  18. Chiswick, Barry R & Miller, Paul W, 1994. "Language Choice among Immigrants in a Multi-lingual Destination," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 7(2), pages 119-31.
  19. Yannis M. Ioannides & Linda Datcher Loury, 2002. "Job Information Networks, Neighborhood Effects and Inequality," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 0217, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
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