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Is There Really a Labor Market Advantage to Being Bilingual in the U.S.?

Gandara, Patricia C.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Policy Information Center Report, ETS Research Report
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Bilingualism, Labor Market, Immigrants, Hispanics, Latinos, Linguistic Competence


Although it is commonly thought that people who are bilingual have an advantage in the labor market, studies on this topic have not borne out this perception. The literature, in fact, has found an earnings penalty is associated with bilingualism—people who are bilingual often make less than people who are monolingual in similar jobs. This report reviews those studies and introduces a new set of studies that found different outcomes for bilingual people in terms of education and earnings. In this report I examine why the prior and present studies differ so greatly and what this means for education policy.

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