Bilingual Latinos Earn More Than Those That Speak English Only
February 1, 2000

Hispanics in the United States who are fluent in both English and Spanish earn more money than those that just speak English, a study by the University of Miami and the University of Florida reveals.

"Hispanics who are fluent in Spanish and English earn significantly higher incomes and are less likely to live in poverty than those who speak only English," according to the study released Tuesday.

In Miami, the Florida city where bilingualism "offers the greatest advantages... Fully bilingual Hispanics earn nearly 7,000 dollars per year more than their English-only counterparts," the report, titled "Creating Florida's Multilingual, Global Workforce," said.

"Think about what 7,000 dollars means in a household of two or more wage earners -- over a couple of years, the earning differences really add up," Sandra Fradd, co-author of the study, said.

According to Fradd, people are generally opposed to bilingual education because "they are unaware of the economic importance of being able to communicate in more than one language."

Fradd, the program chair of the Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages program at the University of Miami, said "such opposition may not make good sense when the financial benefits of being bilingual are considered."

Just like in Miami, in other U.S. cities like San Antonio, Texas, and Jersey City, New Jersey, bilingual Hispanics earn more than someone who speaks only English, the study found.

The study revealed that despite the differences in origin among the Hispanic population of the 10 cities studied, the results were the same.

"These findings show that this is not a "Cuban" thing, It's about economic development, not ethnicity," Fradd said, adding that it is her hope the study will promote bilingual education programs in Florida and elsewhere in the nation.

In Miami, the majority of the Hispanic population is of Cuban origin, while in Jersey City, the Hispanic population comes mainly from the Caribbean and Central and South America. In San Antonio, the Hispanic population is primarily Mexican in origin.

In California, however, the study demonstrated that bilingual Hispanics earn less than those that speak only English.

Two years ago, California voters approved a proposition that banned bilingual education programs in California public schools, ending bilingual education programs.

"Being bilingual is a personal thing, not cultural, nor a result of immigration, it is an aid to business, to advancing further, and earning more money," Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce Vice President for Hispanic Affairs Rosa Sugra¤es told EFE.

"Many people say that English is the global language of business, but I have always said the best language for business is the language the client speaks," Sugra¤es said.

For six years, Sugra¤es has promoted the "English Plus One" program, designed to support bilingual education programs in Florida's public schools because of the difficulty Florida's business sector has in finding employees that speak both English and Spanish.

"There is no doubt that bilingualism is a priority here in every sense. We recognize its importance," Miami-Dade County School Board member Demetrio Perez, a strong supporter of bilingual education, told EFE.