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Language Skills and Economic Returns

  • Economics
  • Education
  • Philosophy


This article focuses on the contributions from the emerging positivist epistemological approach, endorsed by the economics of language and the economics of education, to study the returns to language skills, assuming that language competencies constitute key components of human capital. It presents initial results from a study on economic returns to language skills in eight countries enrolled in the International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS) – Chile, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Italy, Norway and Italian-speaking Switzerland. The study shows commonalities between countries in terms of language skills valuing, beyond the type of language policy applied at the national level. In each of the eight countries compared, skills in a second language are estimated to be a major factor constraining affecting wage opportunities.

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