The article examines the influence of linguistic distance on the labor market outcomes of a sample of 5,041 first generation immigrants in Sweden between 1970 and 1990. The article exploits register data from the Swedish Longitudinal Database, examining a population of individuals from 11 non-Nordic countries of origin. The analysis focuses on the transition to the Swedish labor market, comparing the last occupation before migration with the first occupation after, measured by the ISEI score. Using OLS regression, the results finds important differences in the initial labor market outcomes that are linked to the individual’s linguistic distance. More specifically, individuals proficient in languages belonging to the same language family as Swedish and familiar with the Latin alphabet are found to enjoy an advantage in the initial transition to the Swedish labor market. This finding exists net of the influence of the individual’s region of origin, and is particularly accentuated among formally highly skilled males. This appears to confirm the comparatively large demands for destination-specific skills in high-status occupations, favoring linguistically more proximate individuals. Among females, no consistent advantage among the linguistically most proximate can be observed among the formally highly skilled, potentially explained by differing selection mechanisms into the labor market. In general, however, the mechanisms through which linguistic distance affects the individual’s initial occupation in Sweden appear to operate similarly along gender lines.
Population Research and Policy Review – Springer Journals
Published: Mar 17, 2013
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