The Critical Period Hypothesis for Language Learning: What the 2000 Us Census Says

37 Pages Posted: 7 Feb 2007

See all articles by Barry R. Chiswick

Barry R. Chiswick

University of Illinois at Chicago; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Paul W. Miller

Curtin University of Technology - School of Economics and Finance; IZA Institute of Labor Economics; Curtin University - Centre for Research in Applied Economics

Date Written: January 2007

Abstract

A critical period for language learning is often defined as a sharp decline in learning outcomes with age. This study examines the relevance of the critical period to English proficiency among immigrants in the US. It uses microdata from the 2000 US Census, a model of language acquisition from the economics and sociology literatures, and a flexible specification of an estimating equation based on 64 age-at-migration dichotomous variables. It shows that self-reported English language speaking proficiency among immigrants declines more-or-less monotonically with age at migration, and this relationship is not characterized by any sharp decline or discontinuity that might be considered consistent with a "critical" period. The findings are robust across the various immigrant samples, and between the genders.

Keywords: immigrants, second language learning, critical period hypothesis

JEL Classification: F22, J15

Suggested Citation

Chiswick, Barry R. and Miller, Paul W., The Critical Period Hypothesis for Language Learning: What the 2000 Us Census Says (January 2007). IZA Discussion Paper No. 2575. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=961386

Barry R. Chiswick (Contact Author)

University of Illinois at Chicago ( email )

601 S. Morgan Street, Room 2103UH
Chicago, IL 60607-7121
United States
312-996-2683 (Phone)
312-996-3344 (Fax)

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

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

Paul W. Miller

Curtin University of Technology - School of Economics and Finance ( email )

GPO Box U1987
Perth WA 6845
Australia

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

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

Curtin University - Centre for Research in Applied Economics ( email )

GPO Box U1987
Perth, Western Australia 6845
Australia

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