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The Return to English in a Non-English Speaking Country: Russian Immigrants and Native Israelis in Israel

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  • Kevin Lang
  • Erez Siniver

Abstract

We use a unique sample of Russian immigrants and natives in Israel to examine the return to English knowledge. In cross-section estimates there is a significant return to English knowledge for both immigrants and natives with high levels of education. Language acquisition is an important element in immigrant/native earnings convergence, but most of this convergence is explained by factors other than language acquisition. These results are confirmed using panel data on wages and knowledge of Hebrew and English over time. The benefits of English knowledge vary across occupations in ways that are largely consistent with past evidence on language-skill complementarity. Natives and immigrants with high levels of education benefit similarly from knowing English. While immigrants with low levels of education do not benefit from knowledge of English, there is some evidence that native Israelis do. Conditional on occupation, the rate at which immigrants learn English and Hebrew are largely orthogonal. Therefore earlier work on the importance of knowledge of the host-country language (Hebrew) does not appear to be significantly biased by the absence of measures of English knowledge.

Suggested Citation

  • Kevin Lang & Erez Siniver, 2006. "The Return to English in a Non-English Speaking Country: Russian Immigrants and Native Israelis in Israel," NBER Working Papers 12464, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12464
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    Cited by:

    1. Antonio Di Paolo & Aysit Tansel, 2015. "Returns to Foreign Language Skills in a Developing Country: The Case of Turkey," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 51(4), pages 407-421, April.
    2. Wang, Zhiling & de Graaff, Thomas & Nijkamp, Peter, 2017. "Look Who’s Talking: On the Heterogeneous Returns to Foreign Language Use at Work among Natives and Migrants in Europe," GLO Discussion Paper Series 104, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
    3. repec:iza:izawol:journl:y:2017:n:416 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Javier Ortega & Gregory Verdugo, 2015. "Assimilation in multilingual cities," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 28(3), pages 785-815, July.
    5. Antonio Di Paolo & Josep Lluís Raymond, 2012. "Language knowledge and earnings in Catalonia," Journal of Applied Economics, Universidad del CEMA, vol. 15, pages 89-118, May.
    6. Antonio di Paolo, 2011. "Knowledge of catalan, public/prívate sector choice and earnings: Evidence from a double sample selection model," Hacienda Pública Española, IEF, vol. 197(2), pages 9-35, June.
    7. Jain, Tarun & Maitra, Pushkar & Mani, Subha, 2016. "Barriers to Skill Acquisition: Evidence from English Training in India," IZA Discussion Papers 10199, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    8. Mehtabul Azam & Aimee Chin & Nishith Prakash, 2013. "The Returns to English-Language Skills in India," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 61(2), pages 335-367.
    9. repec:zbw:rwirep:0398 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Stöhr, Tobias, 2015. "The returns to occupational foreign language use: Evidence from Germany," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(C), pages 86-98.
    11. Donado, Alejandro, 2014. "Foreign Languages and their Impact on Income and Unemployment," Annual Conference 2014 (Hamburg): Evidence-based Economic Policy 100288, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    12. Isphording, Ingo, 2013. "Returns to Local and Foreign Language Skills – Causal Evidence from Spain," Ruhr Economic Papers 398, RWI - Leibniz-Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Ruhr-University Bochum, TU Dortmund University, University of Duisburg-Essen.
    13. Chr. Hjorth-Andersen, 2006. "The Relative Importance of the European Languages," Discussion Papers 06-23, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
    14. Ingo Isphording, 2013. "Returns to Local and Foreign Language Skills – Causal Evidence from Spain," Ruhr Economic Papers 0398, Rheinisch-Westfälisches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Universität Dortmund, Universität Duisburg-Essen.
    15. repec:bla:labour:v:31:y:2017:i:3:p:265-287 is not listed on IDEAS
    16. Wang, Haining & Smyth, Russell & Cheng, Zhiming, 2017. "The economic returns to proficiency in English in China," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 43(C), pages 91-104.
    17. Ingo E. Isphording, 2013. "Returns to Foreign Language Skills of Immigrants in Spain," LABOUR, CEIS, vol. 27(4), pages 443-461, December.
    18. Wang, Haining & Cheng, Zhiming & Smyth, Russell, 2016. "Language and consumption," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 135-151.
    19. David Clingingsmith, 2014. "Industrialization and Bilingualism in India," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 49(1), pages 73-109.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • 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
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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