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Personally I think the role model argument would hold true for language programming, oddly enough. One thing you see again and again are people growing up within Indigenous communities who feel that their identities are not legitimate to "white" society and it causes them to hold themselves back. My mother was really scarred growing up speaking a "devil" language, it works itself out in all kinds of ways. Role models can be problematic because they often seem extraordinary, but seeing representations of people like yourself in your own language is legitimating in a very profound way. There may be enough data to look at educational attainment in the context of Nunavut and northern Cree communities, but there are a lot of other factors going on.

I don't love the environmental valuation approach because it often ends up relying on surveys that reflect only theoretical preferences. It is pretty common to value your language but not enough to teach it to your kids. But you are very happy if they learn it at school, so it must be worth something! (This did make me wonder if there is library data from First Nation and territorial libraries that show some revealed preferences, which would be particularly interesting because prices and availability of the books are identical and production values are not a concern. The development of a kind of cultural critical mass might be seen in the large language groups - I'm thinking Cree and Inuktitut - but how would you measure the economic impact of that exactly? I'm not sure).

I know a lot of the literature on bilingual education looks at trade impacts. Not so helpful. But the concept of trade in the context of Indigenous communities might instead be translated instead into business formation and institutional development, particularly the development of regional (that is, between Indigenous communities) businesses and governance structures. These structures are more likely to exist (and to be more successful) in areas where use of Indigenous languages are more common. But there are a lot of conflating factors again, it would have to be handled deftly.


Thanks so much for taking the time to respond. Library data is a neat idea. I share your concerns about using hypothetical willingness-to-pay or willingness-to-accept questions as a form of evaluation. Erik Snowberg gave a State of the Art lecture at the most recent Canadian Economics Association meetings - one of the results he presented found almost no correlation between WTP and WTA measures in survey data (i.e. people's reported to WTP for X was pretty much uncorrelated with their WTA for X). As the saying goes - ask a hypothetical question, get a hypothetical answer.

Looking at language as a foundation for good governance and institutional development is a really fascinating idea. Do you have references on the literature on bilingual education? I did come across this old piece by Francois Vaillancourt and F. Grin on economic impact of language policy in Basque regions: http://edoc.vifapol.de/opus/volltexte/2008/796/pdf/monograph_2.pdf, but not a lot else.

Too busy with important family matters to comment with profundity. But there were a lot a speculation (and maybe studies) on the role of Radio-Canada radio and tv services on the birth of Québec modern culture and the Quiet Revolution.
And Maurice Duplessis was a master of communications,see

Who knows what First Nations programming will lead to?

It's a valid option.

Unfortunately, most of what I see in the economics literature relating to bilingual education relates to trade (Fidrmuc and Fidrmuc for example - easy to do with an EU dataset). There is also a literature on decolonization that is specific to Indigenous communities. But my head starts to swim when I read journal articles on decolonization and resistance to neo-liberalism, I don't find a lot of data in them so I tend not to read them (there could be some interesting stuff out there that I don't know about). There is a developmental economics literature that sees improved results from traditional institutions (Diaz-Cayeros had something recently from Mexico) and negative effects from governance in colonial languages. Arcand and Grin had a study where they argue that linguistic "fragmentation" in Sub-Saharan Africa (not speaking a colonial language, basically) is associated with higher levels of GDP per capita. But as is always the case, the economic topics relating to Indigenous communities are under-explored in a Canadian context. I'm very interested in any approaches you might come up with - please share your eventual brilliance.

Cheyene - thanks for those links, I wasn't aware of Fidrmuc's work, or Diaz-Cayeros'. Interesting stuff.

Late to the party, but it doesn't just preserve the language, but strengthens the respective ethnic (tribal?) identities. Is this considered a beneficial effect? Europe, with its nation states founded by mostly forcefully "unifying" different ethnic groups and regional cultures, has always since had undercurrents of regional identities, and a degree of "us vs them" perhaps not enmity but comparison. At least in Germany, this mostly takes the shape of ascribing supposed character and personality traits as well as lifestyle preferences based on regional background or observed language dialect.

With the German reunification, East Germans experienced basically a complete loss of their former national and to an extent their cultural identity (liked or not liked). At the risk of trivializing, it could be compared to leaving (or being relieved of) a bad relationship, but now you are on your own. But OTOH it had been an identity and culture that deliberately suppressed prior history and prior regional identities, and presented a very selective and "managed" view on the cultural heritage. This vacuum was then filled with a search for local and regional roots, and pre-"communist" historical backgrounds, down to the level of city ditricts and suburbs.

People always want relatable social context. Will your tribal people be better off with only a national identity? It will also reduce the variety for the "mainstream" - which is also somewhat of a distinction as long as other distinctions exist.

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