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Russian Jewish Immigrants in the United States: The Adjustment of their English Language Proficiency and Earnings in the American Community Survey


  • Chiswick, Barry R.

    () (George Washington University)

  • Larsen, Nicholas

    () (Eastern Washington University)


Compared to other immigrants to the United States, recent Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union have achieved high levels of English language proficiency and earnings. They experience disadvantages in both dimensions at arrival, but because of steeper improvements with duration in the United States, they reach parity or surpass the English proficiency and earnings of other immigrants. This pattern is seen in the most recent data, the American Community Survey, 2005 to 2009, which is studied here, but also in earlier censuses (1980-2000). The Russian Jews, whether male or female, have higher levels of schooling and English proficiency. Moreover, they appear to secure greater earnings payoffs in the US labor market from their schooling, their labor market experience in the US, and their proficiency in English. What is perhaps remarkable is that the Russian Jewish immigrants from the late 19th and early 20th centuries (1881 to 1920's) also experienced high levels of human capital accumulation and economic success (measured by earnings or occupational attainment). And their US-born children achieved even greater successes compared to other native-born children. This is not emerging from a highly selective immigrant population. The Russian Jewish migration is a mass migration influenced, in part, by refugee motivations. This leads to the obvious but still unanswered question: What is it about the Jews of the Former Russian Empire/Soviet Union that has resulted in their high levels of success in the United States over the past 25 years?

Suggested Citation

  • Chiswick, Barry R. & Larsen, Nicholas, 2012. "Russian Jewish Immigrants in the United States: The Adjustment of their English Language Proficiency and Earnings in the American Community Survey," IZA Discussion Papers 6854, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp6854

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Zhang, Xiaobo, 2006. "Fiscal decentralization and political centralization in China: Implications for growth and inequality," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 34(4), pages 713-726, December.
    2. Cecilia Elena Rouse, 1998. "Private School Vouchers and Student Achievement: An Evaluation of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 113(2), pages 553-602.
    3. Yuyu Chen & Ginger Zhe Jin & Yang Yue, 2010. "Peer Migration in China," NBER Working Papers 15671, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Fan, Shenggen & Kanbur, Ravi & Zhang, Xiaobo, 2008. "Regional Inequality In China: An Overview," Working Papers 51157, Cornell University, Department of Applied Economics and Management.
    5. Joshua D. Angrist & Alan B. Keueger, 1991. "Does Compulsory School Attendance Affect Schooling and Earnings?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 106(4), pages 979-1014.
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    More about this item


    proficiency; English language; schooling; earnings; immigrants; Soviet Jews; American Community Survey;

    JEL classification:

    • F22 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - International Migration
    • J61 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

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