Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Regional Science

Lingusitic Minority Communities' Contribution to Economic Well-Being: Two Case Studies

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Regional Science

Lingusitic Minority Communities' Contribution to Economic Well-Being: Two Case Studies

Article excerpt

Department of Economics

Mount Allison University

Sackville, NB E0A 3C0

Canadian Institute for Research on

Regional Development (CIRRD)

Universite de Moncton

Moncton, NB E1A 3E9

The authors wish to thank Mr. Rene Boudreau, Research Assistant at the CIRRD, who helped in the preparation of the statistical profiles and with some of the interviews in Prince County, PEI, and Dr. Donald J. Savoie, Clement-Cormier Chair in Economic Development at l'Universite de Moncton, for reading the paper and offering suggestions. Any errors remain the sole responsibility of the authors.

This paper examines the economic vitality of linguistic minority communities and how these communities contribute to the economic well-being of their regions based on two case studies. The first is the Francophone minority of Prince County in Prince Edward Island and the second is the Anglophone minority on the south coast of the Gaspe Peninsula in Quebec. Both Geographic areas are economically depressed by national standards with higher-than-average unemployment rates and lower-than-average incomes.

The paper is based on a study by the authors commissioned by the Department of Canadian Heritage and supported by the Canadian Institute for Research on Regional Development entitled, "The Socio-Economic Vitality of Minority Official Language Communities: A Pilot Study." Socioeconomic profiles of the regions for the study were prepared from a special micro-data set, based on the 1991 Census, purchased from Statistics Canada. As well, more than fifty interviews were conducted in the various communities to gain the perspective from actors within the communities. A standardized questionnaire was used in the interviews but the sample of persons interviewed was not random. A cross section of each community was interviewed, typically civic leaders, leaders of the Societe Saint Thomas d'Aquin in Prince Edward Island, leaders of CASA (the Committee for Anglophone Social Action) in Quebec, members of volunteer groups in the community, officials of various development agencies and industrial commissions, established business persons, emerging entrepreneurs, union leaders, homemakers, young people, and retired persons. The questions sought to learn how people of linguistic minority communities participate in local economic development and how linguistic minority communities contribute to the economic well-being of the local, regional, and national economies. Accordingly, the answers to the questions often reflected people's impressions of events and it was not possible to verify all statements by respondents for accuracy. Nevertheless, under the circumstances and in the time allowed, the interviewers made efforts to verify statements through some follow up interviews by telephone.

Language and Output

There is a paucity of literature on how economists examine the relationship between language and output. For example, there are difficulties in using traditional growth theory to analyse the effects of language on output. One difficulty is on the input side where economists tend to consider factors of production or resources that can be easily quantified and valued in money terms, such as natural resources, labour, and capital. Economists tend to shy away from non-quantifiable resources that they cannot easily value in money terms. Language, as a variable, is not easily quantifiable. Language has nevertheless been considered as "a resource and can be taken into account in planning [economic growth and development]" (Rubin and Jernudd 1971: 196). The other difficulty with growth theory lies on the output side where economists tend to measure the well-being and progress of society in terms of the value of goods and services produced in the economy. That a society has become more cultured or enjoys more leisure activities through the use of one or more languages is not translated into "products" easily quantifiable in such traditional measures of well-being as growth in gross domestic product or national output. …

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