Effects of English Instruction and English Skills on Labor Market Outcomes in Mexico



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In this dissertation, I examine the labor market returns to English skills in the context of a non-English-speaking country. I study the case of Mexico in two chapters that use distinct empirical strategies and different data sets.

In the first chapter, I measure the effect of exposure to English instruction on labor market outcomes. In 2009, Mexico launched the National English Program in Basic Education, and my empirical strategy uses the school by cohort variation in exposure to English instruction generated by this policy change. I construct a novel database connecting the universe of elementary school students to their labor market outcomes more than ten years after they had exposure. I find that English instruction reduces the likelihood that individuals participate in formal sector employment due to exposure increasing school enrollment. Focusing on a sub-sample that is unlikely to be enrolled in school by age 16, I find that English instruction has no effect on wages but shifts workers out of agriculture and construction into manufacturing industries. Furthermore, I find no effects on reading and mathematics test scores, which suggests that my main findings do not reflect changes to general cognitive skills.

In the second chapter, I study the prevalence of English skills and the labor market returns to English skills in Mexico. I use individual-level data from the 2014 Subjective Well-being Survey, which unlike other large nationally representative data sets includes a measure of English proficiency. To address the concern that English skills may be endogenous in the wage equation, I take advantage of policy changes in several Mexican states that introduced English instruction in public elementary schools. I find that these state English programs increased the likelihood of speaking English, did not affect wages, and shifted workers out of physically demanding occupations.

The results in both chapters point to the same conclusion: English instruction and English skills expand employment opportunities. Workers with exposure to English instruction are not necessarily getting higher wages, however, they are moving to different jobs. The destination jobs appear to have better working conditions and different career paths.



Early Childhood Education, Education Reform, Skills, Wage Gap, Formal Sector, Primary School, Occupational Choice, Labor Income