Equity & Diversity

English Proficiency Lower Among Mexicans Than Puerto Ricans in U.S.

By Mary Ann Zehr — September 21, 2009 1 min read

Mexicans living in the United States are more likely than Puerto Ricans in the States to say they speak English “less than very well,” according to profiles of five Spanish-speaking groups published by the Pew Hispanic Center. In addition to Puerto Ricans and Mexicans, the groups profiled are Cubans, Salvadorans, and Dominicans. Those 5 and older living in the United States reported their proficiency with English.

Dominicans were the most likely to say they speak English less than very well, with 47.8 percent of them giving that response on the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. On average, 38.8 percent of Hispanics living in the United States say they speak English less than very well.

Salvadorans took second place in not being comfortable with the language—43.8 percent. Next in line were Cubans at 43.3 percent, followed by Mexicans at 40.9 percent.

Lastly, 20.5 percent of Puerto Ricans 5 or older report speaking English less than very well.

The Pew report notes that Mexicans are the largest group of people of Hispanic origin living in the United States. They accounted for 64.3 percent, or about two-thirds, of that population in 2007. Puerto Ricans are the second-largest group.

The report doesn’t speculate as to why English proficiency may be lower among one group compared with another. But it does include information about the proportion of people from a group who were not born in the United States.

For example, 39.9 percent of Mexicans living in the United States were not born there. In comparison, one-third of Puerto Ricans were born in the U.S. territory rather than in the continental United States.

It seems to me that whether or not one was born in an English-speaking country could affect one’s exposure to, and thus proficiency in, the language.

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