Returns to Local and Foreign Language Skills – Causal Evidence from Spain
This study examines the returns to foreign and local language skills of immigrants in the Spanish labor market. Different sources of endogeneity are addressed by deriving a set of novel instruments for language proficiency through a measure of linguistic dissimilarity. Using cross-sectional data from the 2007 National Immigrant Survey of Spain (NISS), returns to language skills are estimated separately for Spanish, English, German and French proficiency. Foreign language proficiency produces high returns, which appear to be mediated through the channel of occupational choice. The results are discussed against the background of a severe foreign language skills shortage in the Spanish economy. Immigrants may deal as a supplier of foreign language proficiency in the short run. In contrast to most studies, I find no compelling evidence of a wage premium for local language profiiency.
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