Equity & Diversity

English-Learner Population in U.S. Rises, Report Finds

By Lesli A. Maxwell — July 25, 2013 1 min read
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Nine percent of the United States population ages 5 and older in 2011 was not proficient in English, an uptick from two decades earlier when that share was 6 percent, according to a new analysis from the Migration Policy Institute.

That translates to 25.3 million individuals—both foreign-born and U.S.-born—living here now with limited ability to communicate in English. The number of those folks has grown by 81 percent since 1990 when it totaled roughly 14 million, reports MPI.

Not surprisingly, California, Texas, and New York—longstanding immigrant gateway states—were home to about half of the individuals who did not speak English fluently in 2011. In California, nearly one in every five residents has limited English proficiency. In the state’s K-12 public school system, the proportion is even higher by many calculations—closer to one in four.

Nationwide, 63 percent of those individuals who do not speak English proficiently are Latino in origin. The next biggest share, at 20 percent, is of Asian heritage.

The MPI’s report, which slices, dices, and analyzes the data in many more useful ways, is based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2011 American Community Survey.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.