Linguistic distance and economic development: A cross-country analysis

Mariko Nakagawa, Shonosuke Sugasawa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This study investigates the relationship between access to domestic and international communication and economic development. It does so by constructing two indices of linguistic distance, domestic and international, capturing language acquisition costs, which are higher when acquiring linguistically more distant languages. The domestic linguistic distance index captures the constraints of communication among speakers of different mother tongues within a country, while the international linguistic distance index captures the constraints of global communication via English. This study’s results reveal a negative association between domestic linguistic distance and GDP per capita, whereas international linguistic distance has no significant association. Moreover, by investigating the mechanisms of the negative association of the domestic linguistic distance, we find that communication difficulty among different language groups hinders economic development through a channel of less employment requiring communication-based operations. Furthermore, we determine that the negative association of the domestic linguistic distance may be mainly driven by relatively poor countries such as many in Africa.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)793-834
Number of pages42
JournalReview of Development Economics
Volume26
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2022 May
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • domestic linguistic distance
  • economic development
  • international linguistic distance
  • mismatch in language use

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development

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