The Economics of Minority Language Identity

Li, Peter S.
September 2001
Canadian Ethnic Studies;2001, Vol. 33 Issue 3, p134
Academic Journal
The debate about whether ethnic identity helps or hinders social mobility is inconclusive because of differences in conceptualizing and measuring "ethnic identity." This paper examines how minority language, as one dimension of ethnic minority identity, changes, and what market returns it brings. Using the 1996 census microdata, the study finds substantial variations of non-official mother tongues and home languages, especially among foreign-born Canadians. By and large, non-official home languages and mother tongues produce net market penalties, whereas English mother tongue or home language yields positive net returns for men and women. The market disincentives associated with non-official languages and the incentives associated with English mother tongue or home language probably explain why minority languages decline in Canada in favour of English language. Despite the findings, the debate regarding ethnic identity and social mobility cannot be resolved without further examining the multi-dimensions of ethnic identity and how each influences economic outcomes.


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