Linguistic and economic adjustment among immigrants in Israel

Barry R. Chiswick, University of Illinois at Chicago
Uzi Rebhun, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Nadia Beider, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

We explore the determinants of destination-language proficiency among immigrants in Israel, and further asked how linguistic qualifications are channeled into labor-market earnings. Immigrants who were initially poor in Hebrew proficiency advanced more quickly than their counterparts who were more fluent shortly after arrival. Inter-group gaps narrowed over time nevertheless remained salient even twenty years after immigration. Younger age at immigration is positively associated with mastering the new language. Women are at a linguistic disadvantage relative to men. Education and the study of Hebrew in governmental-sponsored program are positively associated with fluency. Language distance inhibits good command of the destination language. Regardless of key immigration and individual characteristics, Ethiopian and Soviet immigrants less articulate in Hebrew than those from the rest of Europe and America. Fluency in the local language is likely to increase earnings; this is true for the immigrant population at large but not for each immigrant group separately.

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Presented in Session 27: Migrant assimilation