The English language fluency and occupational success of ethnic minority immigrant men living in English metropolitan areas

  • Michael A. Shields
  • Stephen Wheatley Price
Part of the Population Economics book series (POPULATION)


This paper examines two crucial aspects of the assimilation experience of ethnic minority immigrants in the United Kingdom. It explores the determinants of their English language (speaking) fluency and the key role such skills play in their occupational success. Our sample is derived from the Fourth National Survey of Ethnic Minorities undertaken in 1994. Uniquely this data contains an interviewer-assessed measure of English language fluency. Importantly, we also attempt to control for possible endogeneity bias in the estimates of the effect of language fluency on occupational success. We find that fluency is associated with significantly higher mean hourly occupational wages.

Key words

Language occupational success immigrants ethnic minorities 

JEL classification

J15 J24 J61 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Aldrich JH, Nelson FD (1984) Linear Probability, Logit and Probit Models. Sage University Press, Beverly HillsGoogle Scholar
  2. 455.
    Angrist JD, Imbens GW, Rubin DB (1996) Identification of Casual Effects Using Instrumental Variables. Journal of the American Statistical Association 91:444–CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Blackaby DH, Clark K, Leslie DG, Murphy PD (1994) Black-White Male Earnings and Employment Prospects in the 1970s and 1980s. Economics Letters 46:273–279CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Blackaby DH, Drinkwater S, Leslie DG, Murphy PD (1997) A Picture of Male and Female Unemployment Among Britain’s Ethnic Minorities. Scottish Journal of Political Economy 44:82–197CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Blackaby DH, Leslie DG, Murphy PD, O’Leary NC (1998) The Ethnic Wage Gap and Employment Differentials in the 1990s: Evidence for Britain. Economics Letters 58:97–103CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bound J, Jaeger DA, Baker R (1995) Problems with Instrumental Variables Estimation When the Correlation Between the Instruments and the Endogenous Variable is Weak. Journal of the American Statistical Association 90:443–450Google Scholar
  7. Borjas GJ (1985) Assimilation, Changes in Cohort Quality and the Earnings of Immigrants. Journal of Labor Economics 3(4):321–342CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Borjas GJ (1987) Self-Selection and the Earnings of Immigrants. American Economic Review 77:531–553Google Scholar
  9. Chiswick BR (1978) The Effect of Americanisation on the Earnings of Foreign-Born Men. Journal of Political Economy 86:897–921CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Chiswick BR (1991) Speaking, Reading and Earnings among Low-Skilled Immigrants. Journal of Labor Economics 9(2):149–170CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Chiswick BR (1998) Hebrew Language Usage: Determinants and Effects on Earnings Among Immigrants in Israel. Journal of Population Economics 11(2):253–271CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Chiswick BR, Miller PW (1992) Language in the Immigrant Labor Market. In: Chiswick BR (ed) Immigration, Language and Ethnicity: Canada and the United States. American Enterprise Institute, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  13. Chiswick BR, Miller PW (1995) The Endogeneity Between Language and Earnings: International Analyses. Journal of Labor Economics 13(2):246–288CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Chiswick BR, Miller PW (1996) Ethnic Networks and Language Proficiency Among Immigrants. Journal of Population Economics 9(1):19–35CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Chiswick BR, Miller PW (1998) English Language Fluency Among Immigrants in the United States. Research in Labor Economics 17:151–200Google Scholar
  16. Chiswick BR, Miller PW (1999a) Language Skills and Earnings Among Legalized Aliens. Journal of Population Economics 12(1):63–89CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Chiswick BR, Miller PW (1999b) Immigrant Earnings: Language Skills, Linguistic Concentrations and the Business Cycle. Paper presented at the Centre for Economic Policy Research Conference “Marginal Labour Markets in Metropolitan Areas”. Dublin, October 10–12, 1999Google Scholar
  18. Dustmann C (1994) Speaking Fluency, Writing Fluency and Earnings of Migrants. Journal of Population Economics 7:133–156CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Dustmann C (1997) The Effects of Education, Parental Background and Ethnic Concentration on Language. The Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance 37 (Special Issue):245–262CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Dustmann C (1999) Temporary Migration, Human Capital and Language Fluency of Migrants. Scandinavian Journal of Economics 101:297–314CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Dustmann C, Fabbri F (2000) Language Proficiency and Labour Market Performance of Immigrants in the UK. Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) Discussion paper no. 156Google Scholar
  22. Dustmann C, van Soest A (1998a) Language and the Earnings of Immigrants. mimeo, University College London, SeptemberGoogle Scholar
  23. Dustmann C, van Soest A (1998b) Language Fluency and Earnings: Estimation With Misclassified Language Indicators. mimeo, University College London, OctoberGoogle Scholar
  24. Galor O, Stark O (1990) Migrants’ Savings, the Probability of Return Migration and Migrants’ Performance. International Economic Review 31:463–467CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Gazioglu S (1996) English Language Proficiency and the Earnings of Turkish and Bangladeshi Immigrants in London. In: Gazioglu S (ed) Migrants in the European Labour Market, J-Net, AberdeenGoogle Scholar
  26. Harmon C, Walker I (1995) Estimates of the Economic Return to Schooling for the United Kingdom. American Economic Review 85:1278–1286Google Scholar
  27. Harmon C, Walker I (1999) The Marginal and Average Returns to Schooling in the UK. European Economic Review 43:879–887CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Harper B, Haq M (1997) Occupational Attainment of Men in Britain. Oxford Economic Papers 47:638–650CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hatton TJ, Wheatley Price S (1999) Migration, Migrants and Policy in the United Kingdom. Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) Discussion paper no. 81Google Scholar
  30. Heckman JJ (1997) Instrumental Variables: A Study of Implicit Behavioural Assumptions Used in Making Program Evaluations. Journal of Human Resources 32:441–462CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Ichino A, Winter-Ebmer R (1999) Lower Bounds and Upper Bounds of Returns to Schooling: An Exercise in IV Estimation With Different Instruments. European Economic Review 43:889–901CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. McFadden D (1973) Conditional Logit Analysis of Qualitative Choice Behaviour. In: Zaremka P (ed) Frontiers in Econometrics. Academic Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  33. Merkle L, Zimmermann ZF (1992) Savings, Remittances and Return Migration. Economics Letters 38:77–81CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Modood T, Berthoud R et al. (1997) Ethnic Minorities in Britain. Policy Studies Institute, LondonGoogle Scholar
  35. Nickell SJ (1982) The Determinants of Occupational Success in Britain. Review of Economic Studies 49:43–53CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Owen D (1992) Ethnic Minorities in Great Britain: Settlement Patterns. Centre for Research in Ethnic Relations, 1991 Census Statistical Paper No. 1, University of Warwick, NovemberGoogle Scholar
  37. Owen D (1993) Country of Birth: Settlement Patterns. Centre for Research in Ethnic Relations, 1991 Census Statistical Paper No. 5, University of Warwick. DecemberGoogle Scholar
  38. Pudney SE, Shields MA (2000) Gender, Race, Pay and Promotion in the British Nursing Profession: Estimation of a Generalised Ordered Probit Model. Journal of Applied Econometrics 15:367–399CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Sargan JD (1964) Wages and Prices in the United Kingdom: A Study in Econometric Methodology. In: Hart PE, Mills G, Whitaker JK (eds.) Econometric Analysis for National Economic Planning. Butterworth, LondonGoogle Scholar
  40. Shields MA, Wheatley Price S (1998) The Earnings of Male Immigrants in England: Evidence from the Quarterly LFS. Applied Economics 30:1157–1168CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Shields MA, Wheatley Price S (1999a) Ethnic Differences in British Employer-Funded on and Offthe-Job Training. Applied Economics Letters 6:421–429CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Shields MA, Wheatley Price S (1999b) Ethnic Differences in the Incidence and Determinants of Employer-Funded Training in Britain. Scottish Journal of Political Economy 46:523–551CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Staiger D, Stock Q (1997) Instrumental Variables Regression With Weak Instruments. Econometrica 65:557–586CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Stewart MB (1983) Racial Discrimination and Occupational Attainment in Britain. Economic Journal 93:521–541CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Veall MR, Zimmermann KF (1992) Pseudo-R2’s in the Ordinal Probit Model. Journal of Mathematical Sociology 16:332–342CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Veall MR, Zimmermann KF (1996) Pseudo-R2 Measure for Some Common Limited Dependent Variable Models. Journal of Economic Surveys 10:241–259CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Wheatley Price S (2001a) The Employment Adjustment of Male Immigrants in England. Journal of Population Economics 14:193–220CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Wheatley Price S (2001b) The Unemployment Experience of Male Immigrants in England. Applied Economics 33:201–215CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael A. Shields
    • 1
  • Stephen Wheatley Price
    • 1
  1. 1.Public Sector Economics Research Centre, Department of EconomicsUniversity of LeicesterLeicesterUK

Personalised recommendations