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Linguistic Traits and Human Capital Formation


  • Galor, Oded
  • Özak, Ömer
  • Sarid, Assaf


This research establishes empirically that existing cross-language variations in the structure of the future tense and the presence of grammatical gender affected human capital accumulation. Exploiting variations in the dominant languages among migrants from the same countries of origin, the study explores the impact of these traits on the educational attainment of second generation migrants in the US. The results suggest that college attendance among individuals with identical ancestry is (i) higher if the dominating language at home has a periphrastic future tense, and (ii) lower for women exposed predominantly to sex-based grammatical gender.

Suggested Citation

  • Galor, Oded & Özak, Ömer & Sarid, Assaf, 2020. "Linguistic Traits and Human Capital Formation," GLO Discussion Paper Series 570, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:glodps:570

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Brian Duncan & Stephen J. Trejo, 2011. "Intermarriage and the Intergenerational Transmission of Ethnic Identity and Human Capital for Mexican Americans," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 29(2), pages 195-227.
    2. Assaf Sarid & Oded Galor, "undated". "Geographical Origins and Economic Consequences of Language Structures," Working Papers WP2017/4, University of Haifa, Department of Economics.
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    7. Desmet, Klaus & Ortuño-Ortín, Ignacio & Wacziarg, Romain, 2012. "The political economy of linguistic cleavages," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 97(2), pages 322-338.
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    10. M. Keith Chen, 2013. "The Effect of Language on Economic Behavior: Evidence from Savings Rates, Health Behaviors, and Retirement Assets," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(2), pages 690-731, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Giampaolo Lecce & Laura Ogliari & Tommaso Orlando, 2017. "Resistance to Institutions and Cultural Distance: Brigandage in Post-Unification Italy," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 2097R, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University, revised Dec 2017.
    2. Duchini, Emma & Simion, Stefania & Turrell, Arthur, 2020. "Pay Transparency and Cracks in the Glass Ceiling," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 1311, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
    3. Fredriksson, Per G. & Gupta, Satyendra Kumar, 2020. "Irrigation and Culture: Gender Roles and Women’s Rights," GLO Discussion Paper Series 681, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
    4. Astghik Mavisakalyan & Yashar Tarverdi & Clas Weber, 2022. "Heaven can wait: future tense and religiosity," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 35(3), pages 833-860, July.
    5. Elizabeth Casabianca & Matija Kovacic, 2022. "Loneliness and health among the elderly.The role of cultural heritage and relationship quality," Working Papers 2022: 01, Department of Economics, University of Venice "Ca' Foscari".
    6. Oto-Peralías, Daniel & Gutiérrez Mora, Dolores, 2021. "Gendered cities: Studying urban gender bias through street names," OSF Preprints b9n4k, Center for Open Science.
    7. Davis, Lewis & Mavisakalyan, Astghik & Weber, Clas, 2022. "Gendered Language and Gendered Violence," GLO Discussion Paper Series 1127, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
    8. Giuliano, Paola, 2020. "Gender and Culture," CEPR Discussion Papers 15185, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    9. Cassar, Alessandra & Zhang, Y. Jane, 2022. "The competitive woman: Evolutionary insights and cross-cultural evidence into finding the Femina Economica," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 197(C), pages 447-471.
    10. Dar, Shafkat Shafi & Sahu, Sohini, 2022. "The effect of language on financial inclusion," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 106(C).
    11. Rottner, Florian, 2021. "Language and xenophobia," University of Göttingen Working Papers in Economics 412, University of Goettingen, Department of Economics.

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    More about this item


    Comparative Development; Human Capital; Education; Language Structure; Future Tense; Grammatical Gender; Cultural Evolution; Gender Bias; Long-term Orientation;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • Z10 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - General
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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