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Speech and Wages

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Publication Date:
Sep 2019

Although language has been widely studied, relatively little is known about how a worker’s speech, in his/her native tongue, is related to wages, or what explains the observed relationship. To address these questions, the author analyzed audio data from respondents to the NLSY97. Wages are strongly associated with speech patterns among both African Americans and Southern whites. For Southern whites, this is largely explained by residential location. For blacks, it is explained by sorting: workers with mainstream speech sort toward occupations that involve intensive interpersonal interactions and earn a sizeable wage premium there.

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