The Return to English in a Non-English Speaking Country: Russian Immigrants and Native Israelis in Israel

Kevin Lang, Erez Siniver

NBER Working Paper No. 12464
Issued in August 2006
NBER Program(s):   LS

We use a unique sample of Russian immigrants and natives in Israel to examine the return to English knowledge. In cross-section estimates there is a significant return to English knowledge for both immigrants and natives with high levels of education. Language acquisition is an important element in immigrant/native earnings convergence, but most of this convergence is explained by factors other than language acquisition. These results are confirmed using panel data on wages and knowledge of Hebrew and English over time. The benefits of English knowledge vary across occupations in ways that are largely consistent with past evidence on language-skill complementarity. Natives and immigrants with high levels of education benefit similarly from knowing English. While immigrants with low levels of education do not benefit from knowledge of English, there is some evidence that native Israelis do. Conditional on occupation, the rate at which immigrants learn English and Hebrew are largely orthogonal. Therefore earlier work on the importance of knowledge of the host-country language (Hebrew) does not appear to be significantly biased by the absence of measures of English knowledge.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w12464

Published: Kevin Lang & Erez Siniver, 2009. "The Return to English in a Non-English Speaking Country: Russian Immigrants and Native Israelis in Israel," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, Berkeley Electronic Press, vol. 9(1). citation courtesy of

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