Russian Jewish Immigrants in the United States

The Adjustment of their English Language Proficiency and Earnings in the American Community Survey


This paper is concerned with the determinants of the English language proficiencies and labor market earnings of adult Russian Jewish male and female immigrants to the United States, compared to other immigrants, using the pooled files of the American Community Survey (2005–09). Although at arrival the Russian Jewish immigrants report lower levels of English skills and earnings, they experience a more rapid improvement over time, and eventually attain parity or higher levels than other immigrants. Moreover, they appear to obtain greater earnings (compared to other immigrants) in the US labor market from their schooling, their time in the United States, and their English proficiency. These findings mirror those found in earlier post-war data (1980–2000 Census) and, to the extent comparable, late 19th and early 20th century studies of Russian Jewish immigrants. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Conference on Contemporary Russian-Speaking Jewish Diaspora, Harvard University, November 13–15, 2011.

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    Mark Tolts estimates that the total number of Jews from the former Soviet Union and their family members born in the United States by 2010 numbered “less than 0.5 million” (Tolts 2011).

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    The coefficients, with T-statistics in parenthesis, for the dichotomous year variables were 0.002 (1.24), −0.003 (−1.96), −0.004 (−2.55), and 0.0003 (0.19) for the years 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008, respectively.


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We are indebted to Marina Gindelsky for assistance with the American Community Survey data file and to the Contemporary Jewry editors and referees for helpful comments.

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Correspondence to Nicholas Larsen.



Table 7 Descriptive statistics of the variables for foreign-born males and females, American Community Survey, 2005–09

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Chiswick, B.R., Larsen, N. Russian Jewish Immigrants in the United States. Cont Jewry 35, 191–209 (2015).

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  • Soviet Jews
  • Immigrants
  • Earnings
  • Schooling
  • English language
  • Proficiency
  • American Community Survey

JEL Classification

  • F22
  • J61
  • J31
  • J24