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Bilingual Kids Earn More Money as Adults

Photograph by Twenty20

Growing up bilingual has many known benefits, but a new study from UCLA says once those children reach adulthood, they also have the ability to earn thousands more per year than their monolingual peers.

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The study from UCLA's Civil Rights Project and Educational Testing Service (ETS), the nonprofit testing organization, is based on data following children of immigrants entering the workforce, and into their late 20s and early 30s.

According to the study, children who are balanced bilinguals — that is, similarly proficient in both English and another language — not only are more likely to graduate from high school and college, and hold better jobs, they also have "wider social networks offering more resources and support," say researchers.

Students who are considered balanced bilinguals are often from immigrant backgrounds (either they have immigrant parents, or they themselves are immigrants as well). And though immigrant parents often worry that teaching their kids the native language can hinder their children's ability to acclimate at school, there have been multiple scientific studies that have shown that not teaching them "may cause more harm than benefit in the long run."

Children with immigrant backgrounds who only speak English and don't retain the secondary language spoken at home make between $2,000 and $5,000 less per year than their balanced bilingual peers, according to the report.

"Being able to speak another language and being able to communicate with folks across cultural borders turns out to be very important in our modern world," said Patricia Gándara, the report's author, during a webinar sharing the study's results this week.

Speaking two or more languages has been shown to improve the brain's executive function, which is what helps us make decisions, solve problems, plan, and perform demanding tasks — all things that are key factors to success once entering the workforce.

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