Study Links Bilingual Education to Limited Earnings Potential

By Innerst, Carol | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), March 5, 1998 | Go to article overview

Study Links Bilingual Education to Limited Earnings Potential


Innerst, Carol, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Bilingual education handicaps Hispanic children, severely limiting their earnings potential when they enter the job market, a new national study shows.

On average, first-generation Hispanic students who went through bilingual education programs over the past two decades are now earning about 50 percent less than their peers who received an English-only education.

The study, conducted by University of Maryland labor economist Mark Hugh Lopez and Marie T. Mora, an economics professor at New Mexico State University, is the first to link participation in a bilingual education program with later labor market opportunities.

"Between $8 billion and $10 billion a year are spent on special services for limited-English-proficient students at the state and local level," said Mr. Lopez, an assistant professor in Maryland's school of public affairs. "However, these programs may be hindering rather than helping these students."

In 1991, first-generation Hispanic workers who had participated in bilingual education classes earned an average $19,240 compared with average earnings of $26,794 for their peers who did not enroll in such programs.

Among second-generation Hispanics - those born in this country to foreign-born parents - students in bilingual education earned on average about 30 percent less than those in English-only programs. The income disparity did not exist for third-generation students.

"One would expect that first-generation Hispanic students [those who are foreign born] would be the most likely to benefit from these programs, yet they are the ones suffering the greatest penalties in the labor market," Mr. Lopez said. "This raises concern that bilingual education may widen, rather than narrow, the socioeconomic gap between limited-English-proficient groups and those for whom language is not an issue."

Using data compiled from the 1990 census and the High School and Beyond surveys of the National Center for Education Statistics, the researchers looked at the incomes of 1,251 students who graduated from high school in 1982.

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