Immigrant Language Proficiency, Earnings, and Language Policies


  • Monica Boyd Department of Sociology, University of Toronto
  • Xingshan Cao Arthritis Community Research and Evaluation Unit, Western Hospital,Toronto



This paper addresses two questions: 1) what are the impacts of language proficiency on the earnings of Canadian adult immigrants; 2) what are the current policy responses. Using a five-level scale of English/French language use, our analysis of Public Use Microdata File for the 2001 census confirms the positive association between proficiency in Canada’s charter language(s) and immigrant earnings. Compared to permanent residents who are highly proficient in English and/or French, those with lower levels of proficiency have lower weekly earnings. Quantile regressions reveal that the relative advantage of English/French language proficiency is higher for those in the top quarter of the earnings distribution; conversely, greater penalties exist for immigrants with low levels of language proficiency at the upper end of the earnings distribution. The likely impacts of federal policies on increasing English/French language proficiency of immigrant workers are discussed, focusing on two federal government initiatives for language training and two recent immigration policy changes.