Journal of Population Economics

, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 31-57

First online:

Immigrant earnings: Language skills, linguistic concentrations and the business cycle

  • Barry R. ChiswickAffiliated withUniversity of Illinois at Chicago, Department of Economics (M/C 144), S. Morgan St. 601, 60607-7121 Chicago IL, USA (Fax: +1-312-996-3344; e-mail:
  • , Paul W. MillerAffiliated withUniversity of Western Australia, Department of Economics, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, Western Australia 6009, Australia (Fax: 61-8-9380-1035; e-mail:

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This study of the determinants of earnings among adult foreign-born men using the 1990 Census of Population focuses on the effects of the respondent's own English language skills, the effects of living in a linguistic concentration area, and the effects of the stage of the business cycle at entry into the U.S. labor market. The analysis demonstrates the importance of English language fluency among the foreign born from non-English speaking countries. There is also strong evidence for the complementarity between language skills and other forms of human capital. Furthermore, there is strong evidence using selectivity correction techniques for the endogeneity between language and earnings.

JEL classification: J31, J61, J24, J15
Key words: Earnings, immigrants, language, business cycle, ethnic concentrations