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Multiple language usage and earnings in Western Europe

Donald R. Williams (Kent State University, Kent, Ohio, USA and CEPS/INSTEAD, Esch‐sur‐Alzette, Luxembourg)

International Journal of Manpower

ISSN: 0143-7720

Article publication date: 12 July 2011




The purpose of this paper is to estimate the return to multiple language usage in the workplace.


This article aims to estimate the effect that using an additional language at work has on earnings for a sample of workers in the European Community Household Panel survey. OLS and fixed‐effects specifications of log‐earnings regressions are estimated by country with controls for standard human capital, job, and personal characteristics.


The results indicate that the use of a second language in the workplace raises earnings by 3 to 5 percent in several Western European nations, with even greater returns found in some. The estimated returns are found to be correlated with the extent of tourism in the country, but not other measures of trade.


This is the first paper to estimate returns to usage of an additional language in the workplace across the European Union, and contributes to our knowledge of the benefits of multi‐lingualism.



Williams, D.R. (2011), "Multiple language usage and earnings in Western Europe", International Journal of Manpower, Vol. 32 No. 4, pp. 372-393.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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