Empirical Studies on Migration
From Language Learning to Integration ProcessesKumulative Dissertation
Datum der mündl. Prüfung:2023-08-23
Betreuer:Prof. Dr. Robert Schwager
Gutachter:Prof. Dr. Silke Uebelmesser
Gutachter:Prof. Dr. Krisztina Kis-Katos
EnglischResearch over the past decades has documented growing migration flows worldwide; and specifically increased immigration into developed countries of the global north. Against this background, this thesis investigates the role of social context, language learning and, more broadly, education in migration decisions and for assimilation in the host country, with a focus on Germany as a developed receiving country. Migration is conceptualized as a process; from the decision whether and when to learn a foreign language, over the considerations and plans to leave one’s home country, to finally the integration process in the host country. In the four main chapters of this thesis, first the reasons for foreign language learning are classified into human capital investment and consumption motive, and individual and country level determinants of those are analyzed (Chapter 2). Then, the macro level determinants of foreign language learning are investigated with a special focus on the certainty with which the return on investment can be realized through migration (Chapter 3). Individual level determinants of migration aspirations and intentions are analyzed (Chapter 4). Lastly, the effect of children’s schooling on their parents’ labor market outcomes and other integration measures is analyzed (Chapter 5). Taken together, this thesis provides evidence that foreign language learning can stem from an investment motive or from a consumption motive, which relies on the idea that education holds consumption value itself, hence generates direct utility (Chapter 2). Crucially, Chapter 3 provides evidence that in the context of migration the timing of language learning depends on certainty of access to the destination country’s labor market. While learning the German language abroad is strongly associated with migration from countries whose citizens have guaranteed access to the German labor market, language learning in Germany is positively associated with migration from countries whose citizens face uncertain access. Restricted access to the destination country is one potential barrier due to which migration desires do not realize, female gender is another (Chapter 4). In contrast, strong social ties can be drivers towards migration. This thesis provides further evidence on the idea of women being “tied movers” who are willing to follow their partner abroad, even against their own desire to stay. For men, potential drivers towards migration are education and professional opportunities. Lastly, Chapter 5 provides first evidence that primary schooling of the oldest child in the household positively affects their parents’ labor market outcomes as well as other integration measures, like German language skills. An analysis of underlying mechanisms suggests that these results are driven by gains in disposable time and exposure to the German language and culture. The findings of this thesis highlight the importance of addressing access barriers and opportunities of language learning, and considering family and gender context in migration and integration. Policy recommendations derived from the results of this thesis include subsidies for foreign language learning and increased supply of language learning opportunities to target those seeking human capital investment, as well as policies to support the social and economic integration of migrants in their host country, specifically women.
Keywords: language learning; new dataset; human capital investment; consumption; language skills; migration; international migration; temporary migration; permanent migration; migration aspirations; migration intentions; labor market access; assimilation; integration; education; schooling; early age; family