Journal of Population Economics

, Volume 28, Issue 3, pp 785–815 | Cite as

Assimilation in multilingual cities

Original Paper


We characterise how the assimilation patterns of minorities into the strong and the weak language differ in a situation of asymmetric bilingualism. Using large variations in language composition in Canadian cities from the 2001 and 2006 Censuses, we show that the differences in the knowledge of English by immigrant allophones (i.e., the immigrants with a mother tongue other than English and French) in English-majority cities are mainly due to sorting across cities. Instead, in French-majority cities, learning plays an important role in explaining differences in knowledge of French. In addition, the presence of large anglophone minorities deters much more the assimilation into French than the presence of francophone minorities deters the assimilation into English. Finally, we find that language distance plays a much more important role in explaining assimilation into French, and that assimilation into French is much more sensitive to individual characteristics than assimilation into English. Some of these asymmetric assimilation patterns extend to anglophone and francophone immigrants, but no evidence of learning is found in this case.


Immigration Assimilation Language policies Minorities 

JEL Classifications

F22 J15 J01 J08 


  1. Barbaud P (1998) French in quebec. In: Edwards J (ed) Language in Canada. Cambridge University PressGoogle Scholar
  2. Bauer T, Epstein GS, Gang IN (2005) Enclaves, language, and the location choice of migrants. J Popul Econ 18(4):649–662CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Beckhusen J, Florax RJ, Graaff T, Poot J, Waldorf B (2013) Living and working in ethnic enclaves: English language proficiency of immigrants in us metropolitan areas. Pap Reg Sci 92(2):305–328Google Scholar
  4. Britannica (2003) Britannica Book of the Year 2002. Encyclopaedia BritannicaGoogle Scholar
  5. Cattaneo A, Winkelmann R (2005) Earnings differentials between german and french speakers in Switzerland. Swiss J Econ Stat 141(2):191–212Google Scholar
  6. Chiswick BR, Miller PW (1994) Language choice among immigrants in a multi-lingual destination. J Popul Econ 7(2):119–131CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Chiswick BR, Miller PW (2001) A model of destination-language acquisition: application to male immigrants in canada. Demogr 38(3):391–409CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chiswick BR, Miller PW (2005) Linguistic distance: a quantitative measure of the distance between english and other languages. J Multiling Multicul 26(1):1–11CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Church J, King I (1993) Bilingualism and network externalities. Can J Econ 26(2):337–345CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cutler D, Glaeser E, Vigdor J (2008) When are ghettos bad? Lessons from immigrant segregation in the united states. J Urban Econ 63:759–774CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Danzer A, Yaman F (2011) Ethnic concentration and language fluency of immigrants in Germany. Discussion Paper 11/09, City University LondonGoogle Scholar
  12. Dustmann C, Van Soest A (2004) An analysis of speaking fluency of immigrants using ordered response models with classification errors. J Bus Econ Stat 22(3):312–321CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dyen I, Kruskal J, Black P (1992) An indoeuropean classification: a lexicostatistical experiment. T Am Philos Soc 82(5):iii–132CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fishman J (1967) Bilingualism with and without diglossia; diglossia with and without bilingualism. In: Paulston CB, Tucker R (eds) Sociolinguistics, 2003, vol 32. Blackwell Publishing, reprinted from J Soc Issues, p 1967Google Scholar
  15. Isphording IE, Otten S (2014) Linguistic barriers in the destination language acquisition of immigrants. J Econ Behav Organ 105:30–50CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. John A, Yi KM (2001) Language and location. MimeoGoogle Scholar
  17. Kraus P (2011) The multilingual city. Nord J Migra Res 1(1):25–36Google Scholar
  18. Kuziemko I (2014) Human capital spillovers in families: do parents learn from or lean on their children? J Labor Econ 32(4)Google Scholar
  19. Kuziemko I, Ferrie J (2014) The role of immigrant children in their parents’ assimilation in the u.s., 1850-2010. In: Boustan L, Frydman C, Margo RA (eds) Human capital in history: the American record. University of Chicago PressGoogle Scholar
  20. Lang K, Siniver E (2009) The return to english in a non-english speaking country: Russian immigrants and native israelis in israel. BE J Econ Anal Poli, Top 9(1). Article 50Google Scholar
  21. Lazear EP (1999) Culture and language. J Polit Econ 107(6):S95—126Google Scholar
  22. Lazear EP (2007) Mexican assimilation in the United States. In: Mexican immigration to the United States. University of Chicago Press, pp 107–121Google Scholar
  23. Mougeon R (1998) French outside new brunswick and Quebec. In: Edwards J (ed) Language in Canada. Cambridge University PressGoogle Scholar
  24. Paulston CB (2003) Linguistic minorities and language policies. In: Paulston CB, Tucker R (eds) Sociolinguistics. Blackwell PublishingGoogle Scholar
  25. Rendon S (2007) The catalan premium: language and employment in Catalonia. J Popul Econ 20(3):669–686CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. van Tubergen F, Wierenga M (2011) The language acquisition of male immigrants in a multilingual destination: Turks and moroccans in Belgium. J Ethn Migr Stud 37(7):1039–1057CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.City University London, CEP (LSE), CReAM, and IZALondonUK
  2. 2.Banque de France and IZAParisFrance

Personalised recommendations