Speaking the same language – The effect of foreign origin teachers on students’ language skills
Population diversity arising from international migration does not only affect the labor market, but also its training ground – the classroom. While the economics literature studies the large and persistent achievement gap between native and foreign origin students, surprisingly little is known about the effect of having a foreign origin teacher on students’ academic achievements. In this study, I investigate whether having a foreign origin teacher causally affects the language skills of students in German secondary school, holding constant both observed and unobserved factors related to academic outcomes. Exploring within-student variation in assignment to teachers, due to student mobility and teacher turnover, I am the first to show that foreign origin teachers significantly increase the reading comprehension of students. Most notable is the positive effect of foreign origin teachers who report a mother tongue other than German. They increase reading comprehension scores universally. Ruling out alternative explanations, I argue that bilingual teachers are particularly well-equipped in teaching languages to both native and foreign origin students.