Citizenship and National Identity: The Role of the Language Spoken at Home

Daniela Ghio , Joint Research Centre European Commission
Erofili Grapsa, Joint Research Centre European Commission
Nikolaos Stilianakis, Joint Research Centre European Commission

Several studies demonstrated that immigrants’ knowledge of the host country’s language is a key factor for their successful integration. Although robust evidence exists for a number of European countries, among which Germany, the UK, Spain and the Netherlands, and North American countries (e.g. Canada and the US), knowledge gaps persist as regards the role of language in the Italian context. This paper exploits Italy’s super-­-diversity of the immigrant population (more than 195 nationalities) to assess whether and how linguistic barriers affect immigrants’ integration. To this end, we use the National Survey on Social Conditions and Integration of Immigrants, which gathers information on immigrants’ speaking, reading and comprehension skills of the Italian language. The issue of endogeneity (i.e. unobserved variables correlated with both immigrants’ language proficiency) is addressed, leveraging presumably exogenous variation generated by immigrants’ age of arrival in the host country and linguistic distance between their native language and Italian.

See extended abstract

 Presented in Session 7. Migration & Urbanization