Linguistic Skills and the Intergenerational Transmission of Language

56 Pages Posted: 17 Sep 2018

See all articles by Ramon Caminal

Ramon Caminal

Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona - Institut d'Analisi Economica, CSIC; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Lorenzo Cappellari

Catholic University of the Sacred Heart of Milan; University of Essex - Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER); Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)

Antonio Di Paolo

University of Barcelona

Abstract

We investigate the pattern of intergenerational transmission of language in a bilingual society. We consider the case of Catalonia, where the two main speech communities, Spanish and Catalan, are of similar sizes, both languages are official, and each one enjoys the protection of a different layer of government. However, whereas all native Catalan speakers are bilingual, only a fraction of native Spanish speakers are fully proficient in Catalan. In this environment, transmission decisions are far from trivial.We provide a simple theory showing that changing the costs of acquiring a second language affects language skills as well as the language parents speak to their children. Empirically, we exploit the natural experiment generated by a language-in-education reform that introduced Catalan–Spanish bilingualism at school to estimate the causal effects of language skills on intergenerational transmission. Results show that the increased proficiency in Catalan among native Spanish speakers induced by the reform augmented their propensity to speak Catalan to their offspring. The causal effect of the policy-induced increase in language proficiency on language transmission is not confounded by spurious trends, potential changes in language identity, and linguistically mixed partnership formation.

Keywords: language, intergenerational transmission, language proficiency, language-in-education reform

JEL Classification: I28, J13, J24, J62, Z13

Suggested Citation

Caminal, Ramon and Cappellari, Lorenzo and Di Paolo, Antonio, Linguistic Skills and the Intergenerational Transmission of Language. IZA Discussion Paper No. 11793, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3249907

Ramon Caminal (Contact Author)

Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona - Institut d'Analisi Economica, CSIC ( email )

08193 Bellaterra
Spain
+34 93 580 6612 (Phone)
+34 93 580 1452 (Fax)

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

Lorenzo Cappellari

Catholic University of the Sacred Heart of Milan ( email )

Largo Gemelli, 1
Via Necchi 9
Milan, MI 20123
Italy

University of Essex - Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER)

Wivenhoe Park
Colchester CO4 3SQ
United Kingdom

Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Antonio Di Paolo

University of Barcelona ( email )

Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, 585
Barcelona, 08007
Spain

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