The Returns to Languages Skills in Multi-Ethnic States: Evidence From Central Asia

by Akhtem Useinov


Over the past five decades, “economics of language” or “language economics” branch has emerged as a discipline analyzing resource allocation in modern societies. How and why do earnings differ between individuals with different language skills? This question is the most interesting empirical question in language economics today. In this paper, I investigate the relationship between individuals’ language skills and wages in three countries of Central Asia. The multiethnic structure of the Central Asian region makes it unique laboratory for analyzing returns to language skills among different language families. I contribute to existing literature by using distance between languages to capture language family effect on earnings. I find earnings premium for individuals with Russian language skills whose language distance between mother tongue and official language is high.