This study examines whether there is an earnings premium for fluent bilingualism among 1.5-generation and U.S.-born Korean Americans in the labor market. The data come from the 2009-2011 American Community Surveys, and the sample is restricted to wage and salary workers. Logged annual wage and salary income was regressed on two dummy variables for bilingual competenceā€”bilingual with fluent English proficiency and bilingual with limited English proficiency (English monolingual as reference category), controlling for indicators of human capital and the language-use environment. Findings show greater economic returns to fluent bilingualism among 1.5-generation Korean women and U.S.-born Korean men, but there is no convincing evidence of a wage premium for fluent bilingualism among U.S.-born Korean women. Surprisingly, there is evidence of wage penalties for fluent bilingualism among 1.5-generation Korean men in certain geographic areas and occupations. These mixed findings are consistent with the recent discussion of bilingualism as both human capital and ethnicity.

Key Words: Bilingualism, Earnings, Korean American, Generation, Gender 

*This paper was originally presented at the Fourth Annual Conference of the Research Center for Korean Community at Queens College, which was held at Queens College on April 5-7, 2013. This paper was also published in Development and Society, Volume 42, Number One, June 2013. We would like to thank Development and Society for allowing us to repost this article.

 

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