Does Italian Make More 'Italians'? Linguistic Skills and Immigrants' Adaptation

Daniela Ghio , Toronto Metropolitan University
Massimiliano Bratti, Università degli Studi di Milano

We investigate linguistic barriers to immigrants' adaptation. Although robust evidence exists for several European and North-American countries, knowledge gaps persist for non-Anglophone countries to effectively demonstrate the role played by destination language to drive immigrants' incorporation into their hosting societies. Using the Official National Survey on Social Conditions and Integration of Immigrants living in Italy, our aim is to measure whether and at what extent deficiency in communication and comprehension skills in Italian affects immigrants’ adaptation, looking at their economic and cultural outcomes: labor market status, the language spoken at home and with relatives, the language spoken with friends and to talk about important issues. The problem of endogeneity, unobserved variables correlated with both immigrants’ language proficiency and adaptation outcomes, is addressed using instrumental variable estimation, leveraging presumably exogenous variations generated by the immigrants’ age of arrival and knowledge of destination language during their childhood. The clustering of immigrants' mother tongue provides us estimates of origin identity effects to assess the power of destination language as one of key factors of integration process. Findings reveal existing linguistic barriers to immigrants' incorporation into Italian society, but the magnitude on cultural indicators differs from labor market outcomes, by mother tongue and gender.

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 Presented in Session 43. Perspectives of Immigration and Their Integration