The Cumulative Effect of Early Investments in the Language Skills of Refugees

January 23, 2020

Economics PhD student Linea Hasager (Uni Copenhagen) explained that asylum seekers arriving after 1999 in Denmark were given expanded access to Danish language courses soon after arrival. Those completing the language course had one more year of employment during their first six years in Denmark compared to a control group, and earned $50,000 more.


Linea Hasager.jpg Refugees who acquire local human capital and are easier to employ and contribute more to the creation of income and to the tax revenues of the host country. We evaluate a reform that substantially expanded language learning provision for humanitarian migrants in Denmark in their first years after arrival. The policy change only applied to immigrants obtaining residency after January 1st 1999. Labor market outcomes of refugees with access to more extensive language training upon arrival gradually diverge from the control group. The impact on earnings and employment is significant after six years and accumulates into one additional year in employment and USD 50,000 in additional earnings, more than offsetting the cost of the additional language learning provision.

Abdelfattah's Comments (Summary)

Discussant Alaa Abdelfattah noted that the implementation of the regulation created a control and treatment group, and that there were data to measure both language acquisition and earnings.

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