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Heterogeneity in the Importance of English-Speaking Ability in Determination of Employment Status by Demographic Subgroups in the United States

Afful, Efua Amoonua (2013): Heterogeneity in the Importance of English-Speaking Ability in Determination of Employment Status by Demographic Subgroups in the United States.

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Abstract

Previous literature indicates that language skills are an important determinant of success in the labor market. Using data from the 2012 American Community Survey (ACS) 1-year sample, this paper shows that there is heterogeneity in the importance of English-speaking ability by gender, race and education. I find that improvement in proficiency generates higher employment benefits for females than males possibly due to the industry distribution of employment by gender. Women and Asians are more likely to be employed at each successively higher level of speaking proficiency with diminishing returns. Enhancement of proficiency increases the odds of employment to a certain degree, beyond which the odds fall for males, Whites, Blacks, other races and individuals with high school education or less. Among individuals with high school education or less, the odds of employment are very low irrespective of level of language proficiency. Individuals with some college but no degree or higher experience consistent increases in odds of employment as English-speaking ability improves. For proficiency in speaking English to yield substantial employment benefits, one must attain moderate to high educational qualifications.

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