November 2004

IZA DP No. 1419: Language Skills and Immigrant Adjustment: What Immigration Policy Can Do!

published in: Deborah Cobb-Clark and Siew-Ean Khoo (eds.), Public Policy and Immigrant Settlement, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2006, 121-148

This study provides an account of the dynamics of the dominant language adjustment process among immigrants in Australia using the Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Australia, which comprises two cohorts of immigrants that arrived in Australia around five years apart. There are two special features of these data that provide the framework for analysis. First, the visa class under which the immigrants entered Australia is known from administrative records. Second, between the two surveys, some visa classes, but not others, were affected by changes in government policy relating to the role of English language skills in immigrant selection. A difference between differences approach is used to isolate the impacts of these policy changes, and thus enable an assessment of what immigrant selection policy can do in this area. It is found that visa category, educational attainment and age at migration impact on immigrant’s language skills. The increased English Proficiency requirement for the Independent and Skilled-Australian Sponsored categories appears to have been successful in raising the English language proficiency of these immigrants.