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Report: Teaching English Reduces Economic Inequality

Improving English language skills can raise immigrants' earning potential as much as 24 percent. (Korean Resource Center/Flickr)
Improving English language skills can raise immigrants' earning potential as much as 24 percent. (Korean Resource Center/Flickr)
March 29, 2016

NEW YORK - Helping immigrants learn English can have a big impact on their earning potential, according to a new report. "Teaching Toward Equity," by the Center for Popular Democracy and Make the Road New York, says income inequality is one of the most pressing issues facing New York.

According to research analyst Kate Hamaji, report co-author, helping immigrants improve their English language skills can raise their earning potential by as much as 24 percent.

"If all limited-English-proficient individuals in New York City became English proficient, they could see a cumulative increase in earnings of $3.1 billion to $5.8 billion," says Hamaji. "And at the state level, earnings could increase by $4.5 billion to as much as $8.2 billion."

The report calls on the city and state to increase funding for English-language programs in the coming fiscal year.

Hamaji says in New York City, new investments of $16 million would help more than 13,000 additional students attend adult literacy programs.

"And then at the state level, we are recommending the New York State Education Department increase funding for adult literacy education to $17.2 million," she says.

They also recommend $10 million investments in occupational skills training and workforce development programs for immigrants across the state.

And Hamaji points out helping immigrants increase their earnings would do more than reduce income inequality. She says it also would benefit local businesses and the state's bottom line.

"People spend money locally," says Hamaji. "It would generate increases to local and state taxes, all of which is beneficial to the local and state economy."

She says increasing English-language proficiency would build on other successful initiatives to combat inequality, including universal pre-K and New York City's municipal ID program.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY