English-Language Learners

English-Speaking Abilities of Immigrants: A Snapshot From the U.S. Census Bureau

By Lesli A. Maxwell — June 10, 2014 1 min read
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Forty-four percent of recent immigrants—those who have arrived in the United States since 2000—said that they speak English “very well,” while 13 percent said they speak no English at all, according to a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau.

By contrast, 63 percent of immigrants who came prior to 1980 reported that they have “high” English-speaking abilities, while 6 percent of those immigrants who’ve been in the U.S. for at least that period of time don’t speak any English. Overall, about half of foreign-born residents who are 5 and older either speak English exclusively, or “very well,” the report found.

This snapshot of English-speaking skills among the U.S. foreign-born population comes from data collected in 2012 in the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

Among the nearly 41 million immigrants who are 5 and older, 15 percent reported that they spoke only English at home. Thirty-five percent said they spoke a language other than English at home and also spoke English “very well.”

English proficiency varied across U.S. geographic regions. In California, Illinois, New Mexico and Texas, the majority of immigrants reported that they speak English less than “very well.” Those states also had the highest proportions of foreign-born residents age 5 and older who reported speaking a language other than English at home.

The Census Bureau’s graphic below shows English-speaking levels of immigrants to the U.S. by their regions of origin.

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