From engineer to taxi driver? Language proficiency and the occupational skills of immigrants


We examine the ability of immigrants to transfer the occupational human capital they acquired prior to immigration. We first augment a model of occupational choice to study the implications of language proficiency on the cross-border transferability of occupational human capital. We then explore the empirical predictions using information about the skill requirements from O*NET and a unique dataset that includes both the last source country occupation and the first four years of occupations in Canada. We supplement the analysis using Census estimates for the same cohort with source country occupational skill requirements predicted using detailed human capital related information such as field of study. We find that male immigrants to Canada were employed in source country occupations that typically require high levels of cognitive skills, but rely less intently on manual skills. Following immigration, they find initial employment in occupations that require the opposite. Consistent with the hypothesized asymmetric role of language in the transferability of previously acquired cognitive and manual skills, these discrepancies are larger among immigrants with limited language fluency.



See more

Related Projects

See more


Report a problem

Back to top