I hao’s au schao gao lao – if you understand that, you don’t live in China, but in the Swabian Jura. “I almost left it,” sounds something like that. Because, according to the well-known advertising campaign, Baden-Wurttemberg can do everything except High German. Their refusal to accept the standard German was not harmful to them, it was previously thought. Because the federal state is not exactly a poor house.
The result of a scientific study is therefore all the more astonishing (“The Wage Penalty of Regional Accents “), which has just been published by the National Bureau of Economic Research in the United States. In it, economists Jeffrey Grogger, Andreas Steinmayr and Joachim Winter addressed the question of whether dialect speakers in Germany are disadvantaged on the job market. And indeed: people who have a strong regional accent to earn on average 20 percent less than those who speak High German.
The evaluation is based on data from the so-called Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP), a representative survey of private households in Germany. In the 2016 survey, the interviewers should also state whether the respondents had a regional accent and how strong it was. 42 percent had no linguistic coloring, 45 a slight and 12 percent a medium to strong one. The latter were defined as dialect speakers for the study.
Of course, a lower income of this group can also have causes other than language, such as lower cognitive skills or less education. Therefore, the study authors used econometric models to correct the data for such possible influencing factors.
In the end, a discount of 20 percent remained on the salary, provided that all other characteristics and skills are the same. This is in line with similar studies in other countries. For example, two years ago, Yuxin Yao and Jan C. van Ours determined that dialect speakers in the Netherlands earn an average of around six percent less.
And Jeffrey Grogger, who was now also involved in the current study, had previously shown that people in the US earn significantly less who speak English with the accent that is typical of black people. Of course, the following also applies here: provided all other circumstances are the same.
The question is, of course, why. The fact is that the Germans generally think dialect speakers are more spirited and friendly, but at the same time less educated. This was demonstrated ten years ago by a representative survey by the German Language Institute.
Such prejudices could therefore lead to dialect speakers becoming less likely to advance professionally. The authors of the study also suspect discrimination by colleagues as a reason, or that dialect speakers rarely choose jobs where direct personal contact is more often required. Ultimately, however, all of these are more of a guess.
However, the study does offer areas of attack in terms of content. On the one hand, it does not take sufficient account of some developments in the dialect areas. For example, the use of dialect has been declining in many areas of southern Germany for years. Younger people speak less dialect than older people. In addition, dialect speakers can vary the intensity of the linguistic color spontaneously, as is the case with the survey.
And since it is customary, especially in higher positions, to speak less dialect, it may simply be that those who want to pursue a career try to get rid of most of their dialect at an early stage or do so at the latest when they go to a university town or to study or work to draw a metropolis. On the other hand, those who think it is more important to stay in their home village and who do not do a good job in a big city do not see any reason for this. The salary differences could also be explained in this way.
Second, the study is based on data from only 950 people. Of these, twelve percent fall into the category of dialect speakers, ie just 114. Whether this can be used to draw conclusions about the entire population can be doubted. Since sodd mr nommal gnauer nãgugge, the Swabian would say. You should take a closer look there.
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