Limited Language Proficiency and Its Consequences

  • Jacob S. Siegel


Limited proficiency in the dominant, national, or official language of a country is likely to limit one’s ability to function effectively in public life. Language skills can be an important determinant of economic and social well-being in the society. The length of time immigrants have spent in the United States is a primary determinant of their ability to acquire English language skills so that younger cohorts of immigrants tend to function better than older ones in later life. Federal laws prohibit recent immigrants from participating in most Federal welfare and entitlement programs unless they become naturalized citizens, but their limited language skills are barriers to their undertaking the steps toward naturalization. This limitation also directly affects their ability to use health care services and other social services. In this chapter I discuss the leading socioeconomic consequences of a lack of facility in the national or principal language, e.g. English in the United States. The areas covered are education, the workplace, health care, and civil rights.

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jacob S. Siegel
    • 1
  1. 1.North BethesdaUSA

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