Edited by Deborah A. Cobb-Clark and Siew-Ean Khoo
Chapter 5: Language Skills and Immigrant Adjustment: The Role of Immigration Policy
Barry R. Chiswick and Paul W. Miller INTRODUCTION Knowledge of the ways destination language skills vary among immigrants is important for understanding the determinants of their economic well-being, as well as other aspects of their economic, political, and social life in the destination. Adult immigrant language skills are also of interest because these influence the language skills and other dimensions of human capital formation of their children. Accordingly, the identification of the groups ‘at risk’ of lacking proficiency in an official language can provide a basis for the design of more effective public policies regarding immigration, language training, and the labour market. Moreover, the changes in immigrants’ language skills with duration of residence in the destination country can inform on economic adjustment and cultural assimilation. Much of our knowledge in this area has been taken from cross-sectional surveys. Study of such data suggests that immigrants rapidly acquire proficiency in destination language skills with increases in the length of their residence in the new country (see, for example, Chiswick and Miller 1995). However, longitudinal inferences, such as those about immigrants’ development of dominant language skills, generally should not be made on the basis of cross-sectional evidence, which rests on comparisons of groups of immigrants who arrived in a country in different time periods. Where possible, longitudinal data should be used for this purpose, if only to test the robustness of crosssectional estimates. This study provides an account of the dynamics of the dominant language adjustment process among immigrants, with application to...
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