Title

The Value of Foreign Language Study within the U.S. Labor Market

Presenter Information

Travis Vincent

Presentation Type

Presentation

Abstract

The U.S. now faces new challenges in educating its citizenry to be competitive in an increasingly globalized economy and world. One facet of the U.S. education system that deserves particular attention is foreign language training. While all but two nations in the EU mandate foreign language education, in the U.S., fewer than half of all students are enrolled in language classes (Eurydice 2005). This study estimates the economic returns to language study within the U.S. labor market to give us a clearer measure of how the discipline is valued in American society. Although a few earlier studies touch on the value of language courses in high school, the majority of literature on the subject focuses on the returns to other subjects, namely mathematics and hard sciences. In contrast, my analysis focuses directly on foreign language study and draws on a more recent dataset, the National Educational Longitudinal Study of 1988, which follows a national cohort of eighth graders through high school to 2000, when most have settled into careers. In my model, the individual’s income in 1999 serves as the key dependent variable, while the number of years studying high school foreign language serves as the primary independent variable. I employ controls for the student’s family background and socioeconomic status, the characteristics of the high school, and the student’s private and professional circumstances at the end of the survey. Depending on the version of the model, I limit the sample to include only those with at least a bachelor’s degree and then add new variables in an attempt to account for each student’s prior ability. When faced with which educational programs to fund and support, it is important that policy makers and the public alike understand and not ignore the benefits of foreign language study.

Category

Social Sciences

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Apr 13th, 10:20 AM Apr 13th, 10:40 AM

The Value of Foreign Language Study within the U.S. Labor Market

UC 326

The U.S. now faces new challenges in educating its citizenry to be competitive in an increasingly globalized economy and world. One facet of the U.S. education system that deserves particular attention is foreign language training. While all but two nations in the EU mandate foreign language education, in the U.S., fewer than half of all students are enrolled in language classes (Eurydice 2005). This study estimates the economic returns to language study within the U.S. labor market to give us a clearer measure of how the discipline is valued in American society. Although a few earlier studies touch on the value of language courses in high school, the majority of literature on the subject focuses on the returns to other subjects, namely mathematics and hard sciences. In contrast, my analysis focuses directly on foreign language study and draws on a more recent dataset, the National Educational Longitudinal Study of 1988, which follows a national cohort of eighth graders through high school to 2000, when most have settled into careers. In my model, the individual’s income in 1999 serves as the key dependent variable, while the number of years studying high school foreign language serves as the primary independent variable. I employ controls for the student’s family background and socioeconomic status, the characteristics of the high school, and the student’s private and professional circumstances at the end of the survey. Depending on the version of the model, I limit the sample to include only those with at least a bachelor’s degree and then add new variables in an attempt to account for each student’s prior ability. When faced with which educational programs to fund and support, it is important that policy makers and the public alike understand and not ignore the benefits of foreign language study.