Does proficiency in host-country language affect immigrant social outcomes? This paper aims to address this question by estimating the causal effects of English language skills on education, health and fertility outcomes of immigrants in England and Wales. We construct an instrument for language skills using age at arrival in the United Kingdom, exploiting the phenomenon that young children learn languages more easily than older children. Using a unique individual-level dataset that links the 2011 Census data to life event records, we find that better English language skills significantly improve educational attainment and adult health, and affect fertility behaviour, but do not affect child health. Supplementary analysis suggests that a higher educational attainment as a result of better English language skills is a possibly important channel though which English proficiency affects immigrant health.
Bibliographical noteWe are grateful to the editor, Albrecht Glitz, and two anonymous reviewers for comments that helped greatly improve our paper. We also gratefully acknowledge the permission of the Office for National Statistics (ONS) to use the Longitudinal Study, and the help provided by staff of the Centre for Longitudinal Study Information and User Support, which is supported by the ESRC Census of Population Programme (Award Ref: ES/K000365/1). We thank Richard Prothero, and the participants of the EALE/SOLE meeting in Montreal, ESPE conference in Izmir, Applied Economics workshop in Catanzaro, and seminars/workshops at the University of Aberdeen, University of Alicante and CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis for discussions that improved this paper. Financial support from the Scottish Institute for Research in Economics and the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland is also gratefully acknowledged. The authors alone are responsible for the interpretation of the data.
This work contains statistical data from the ONS which is Crown Copyright and all statistical results remain Crown Copyright. The use of the ONS Statistics statistical data in this work does not imply the endorsement of the ONS in relation to the interpretation or analysis of the statistical data. This work uses research datasets which may not exactly reproduce National Statistics aggregates.
- Language Skills