The Value of Bilingualism in the U.S. Labor Market
Much is surmised, but little is known about the value of bilingualism in today’s U.S. economy. The authors use the National Adult Literacy Survey (NALS) to provide the first rigorous estimates of the wages of bilingual workers. Although the nominal wages of bilinguals exceed those of their monolingual peers, this pattern largely reflects the higher completed schooling of the bilinguals. In fact, regression analysis shows that bilingual skills do not make a statistically significant contribution to weekly wages, once all workers’ human capital characteristics are held constant. Thus, the market little values foreign language proficiency and creates no incentive to acquire or maintain it, doubtless contributing to the relatively rapid shift to monolingualism across generations.