Indigenous Language Skills and the Labor Market in a Developing Economy: Bolivia
Posted: 10 Feb 2000
This paper examines the relationship between language use and labor market activities (participation and earnings) in a developing economy where many speak an indigenous language. The application is to men and women age 15 and over in Bolivia?s department capital cities, using the 1993 Encusesta Integrade de Hogares (Integrated Household Survey). The use of Spanish is found to be more prevalent among those more active in the labor market, among those who have had more exposure to Spanish, and among those who are more efficient in acquiring language skills. The effects of Spanish and indigenous language usage on labor force participation and on earnings are analyzed. When other variables are held constant, including level of schooling, among both men and women monolingual Spanish speakers earn about 25 percent more than bilingual Spanish-indigenous language speakers. Among women, those who speak only an indigenous language earn about 25 percent less than those who are bilingual. The lower earnings of the bilingual speakers may be due to their poorer proficiency in Spanish.
JEL Classification: J61
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