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The Economics of Language Policy$
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Michele Gazzola and Bengt-Arne Wickström

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780262034708

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262034708.001.0001

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Bilingualism and Economic Performance

Bilingualism and Economic Performance

(p.313) 9 Bilingualism and Economic Performance
The Economics of Language Policy

Alisher Aldashev

Alexander M. Danzer

The MIT Press

This chapter investigates the economic returns to bilingualism. The analysis is staged in Kazakhstan, a multi-ethnic country with complex ethnic settlement patterns that has recently switched its official state language from Russian to Kazakh. We find a surprising negative effect of bilingualism on earnings and generally low returns to speaking Kazakh. We believe that individuals assess their proficiency in a language relatively to their peers. Hence, bilinguals who rate themselves as “fluent” in Russian and whose peers are Russian speakers are more likely to be genuinely fluent in Russian. In contrast bilinguals who rate themselves as “fluent” in Russian but whose peers are Kazakh speakers are less likely to be genuinely fluent in Russian but rather more fluent than their Kazakh-speaking peers. Thus, the wage penalty for bilingualism is in fact the wage penalty for being less fluent in Russian language which is valued in the labor market in Kazakhstan.

Keywords:   Kazakhstan, Bilingualism, Returns to education, Segmented labor market

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