Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Literacy and the Migrant-Native Wage Gap

Himmler, Oliver and Jaeckle, Robert (2014): Literacy and the Migrant-Native Wage Gap.

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Being able to read and write is one of the most important skills in modern economies. Literacy frequently is a prerequisite for employment and its relevance for productivity and wages is magnified by the fact that it is only through literacy that many other skills become usable. More so than for natives, this argument applies to migrants: even those with high levels of human capital acquired in the country of origin often have it rendered worthless by the absence of literacy in the host country language. Using novel data from a large-scale German adult literacy test (LEO - level-one study), we investigate the determinants of literacy and show that migrants have systematically lower language skills than natives. We find that any observed raw employment and wage gaps between natives and migrants can be fully explained by these differences.

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