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FAM5 Language spoken at home and difficulty speaking English: Number of children ages 5–17 who speak a language other than English at home by language spoken and ability to speak English, and the percentages of those speaking a language other than English at home and those with difficulty speaking Englisha by selected characteristics, selected years 1979–2012

excel icon FAM5 Excel Table

Characteristic Current Population Survey American Community Survey
1979 1989 1992 1995b 1999b 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Children who speak another language at home
Number (in thousands) 3,826 5,177 6,264 6,657 8,815 9,526 9,764 9,793 9,854 9,977 10,507 10,862 10,918 10,872 11,227 11,872 11,837 11,231
Language spokenc (in thousands)
Spanish 2,529 3,550 4,314 5,037 6,339 6,533 6,794 6,859 7,021 7,103 7,530 7,805 7,872 7,781 8,067 8,456 8,470 8,587
Other Indo-European 622 727 505 514 433 1,535 1,489 1,480 1,398 1,440 1,462 1,458 1,479 1,513 1,487 1,568 1,557 1,594
Asian or Pacific Island languages 160 551 978 504 1,177 1,147 1,152 1,127 1,110 1,116 1,140 1,177 1,173 1,153 1,242 1,313 1,325 1,306
Other languages 515 349 467 602 865 311 329 327 324 318 375 422 394 424 431 444 485 506
Ability to speak English (in thousands)
Very well 2,576 3,369 4,104 4,226 6,185 6,640 6,920 7,012 6,973 7,202 7,701 8,095 8,170 8,191 8,592 9,078 9,244 9,495
Well 783 1,144 1,436 1,538 1,743 1,754 1,723 1,709 1,852 1,774 1,818 1,792 1,841 1,804 1,811 1,872 1,788 1,712
Not well 362 568 627 749 758 926 923 906 869 828 819 817 760 746 708 717 684 676
Not at all 105 96 97 143 130 206 198 166 159 173 169 158 147 130 115 116 121 110
Percentage of school-age children 8.5 12.3 13.2 14.1 16.7 18.1 18.5 18.5 18.6 18.9 19.9 20.3 20.5 20.5 21.1 21.9 22.0 22.3
Race and Hispanic origind
White 8.7 12.0 12.6 13.3 16.4
White-alone 14.4 14.4 14.1 14.5 14.5 14.7 14.8 15.2 16.4 17.0 17.8 18.2 18.7
White, non-Hispanic 3.2 3.3 3.3 3.6 3.9
White-alone, non-Hispanic 5.7 5.7 5.6 5.1 5.3 5.6 5.7 5.7 5.8 5.7 5.6 5.8 6.1
Black 1.9 3.1 4.3 4.2 5.8
Black-alone 5.1 5.1 5.1 5.8 5.4 6.0 6.1 6.0 6.6 6.8 7.0 6.9 7.5
Black, non-Hispanic 1.3 2.3 3.7 3.0 4.5
Black-alone, non-Hispanic 4.4 4.5 4.5 5.0 4.7 5.3 5.5 5.3 5.6 5.7 6.0 5.9 6.4
American Indian or Alaskan Native 16.6 13.6 17.8 20.4
American Indian or Alaska Native-alone 20.5 24.2 22.3 20.7 17.0 20.0 22.4 20.0 22.0 23.4 21.2 20.7 21.5
Asian or Pacific Islander 62.2 65.2 60.2 60.4
Asian-alone 67.1 66.6 64.4 63.5 63.4 64.0 63.6 63.7 63.2 63.5 62.8 62.6 60.9
Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander-alone 29.8 36.9 31.5 26.0 32.6 29.8 32.9 34.7 29.7 29.6 29.3 34.7 34.7
Other 44.5 43.6 51.7 64.0
Some other race alone 75.4 72.6 73.6 73.0 74.1 74.5 74.8 74.6 75.3 76.0 75.8 75.4 74.9
Two or more races 17.6 17.5 16.8 14.8 13.4 14.4 14.3 14.0 13.5 14.0 16.0 15.5 14.9
Hispanic (of any race) 75.1 69.4 71.5 73.8 70.9 68.6 68.7 67.8 67.6 67.4 68.9 68.9 68.4 66.0 66.0 65.3 64.3 64.1
Education of parente
Less than high school graduate 47.4 48.1 51.0 53.5 53.2 55.3 56.1 57.7 58.7 59.8 60.7 61.0 61.9
High school graduate 15.5 16.6 17.2 18.0 18.8 20.4 22.0 22.6 22.7 24.0 25.2 26.1 26.5
Some college 12.4 12.8 12.4 12.6 12.6 13.4 13.7 13.5 13.8 14.2 14.8 14.9 15.1
Bachelor's degree or higher 12.9 12.8 12.6 12.6 12.8 13.2 13.6 13.6 13.9 13.9 14.3 14.5 14.2
Poverty statusf
Below 100% poverty 28.4 28.9 29.1 28.4 28.2 30.2 30.2 30.5 31.2 32.0 32.5 33.0 33.3
100% poverty and above 16.1 16.5 16.4 16.7 16.9 17.7 18.4 18.6 18.4 18.7 19.2 19.1 19.4
Nativity statusg
Native child and parents 5.0 5.1 4.8 4.7 4.6 5.0 5.1 4.9 5.0 5.1 5.4 5.5 5.7
Foreign-born parent 72.0 71.7 71.0 71.0 71.0 71.8 72.1 72.1 71.5 71.9 72.1 72.0 71.1
Native child 66.9 66.4 65.7 66.2 66.4 67.1 67.8 68.0 67.6 68.3 68.6 68.7 68.2
Foreign-born child 87.9 88.7 88.6 87.5 87.5 88.6 88.2 88.2 88.0 87.7 88.2 88.1 88.0
Family structure
Two married parents 18.5 19.0 19.1 19.5 19.8 20.4 21.2 21.4 21.4 21.9 22.6 22.9 23.2
Mother only 15.8 16.5 16.5 16.2 16.4 17.9 18.0 18.2 18.4 19.3 20.1 20.4 20.8
Father only 19.3 18.7 17.6 18.1 18.5 21.1 20.9 20.7 21.1 21.8 22.5 21.6 22.5
No parent 20.1 19.9 20.1 18.3 18.4 20.4 20.1 19.7 19.1 18.9 19.9 19.2 18.8
Regionh
Northeast 10.5 12.8 14.9 15.2 17.7 19.1 18.7 18.4 19.0 19.0 19.7 20.1 20.3 20.6 20.9 21.7 21.8 22.7
South 6.8 10.6 10.5 11.7 14.3 14.6 15.1 15.4 15.7 15.6 16.8 17.3 17.6 17.7 18.5 19.3 19.5 20.0
Midwest 3.7 4.7 5.3 5.9 7.5 9.5 9.9 10.0 9.9 10.5 10.8 11.1 11.4 11.4 11.8 12.3 12.7 12.8
West 17.0 23.6 25.3 26.4 28.8 31.0 31.1 31.3 31.0 31.4 33.0 33.6 33.6 33.1 33.6 34.4 34.4 34.2
Living in linguistically isolated householdi
Number (in thousands) 2,576 2,749 2,748 2,950 2,926 2,952 2,976 3,046 2,889 2,960 2,986 2,899 2,814
Percentage of school-age children 4.9 5.2 5.2 5.6 5.5 5.6 5.6 5.7 5.5 5.6 5.5 5.4 5.2
Characteristic Current Population Survey American Community Survey
1979 1989 1992 1995b 1999b 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Children who speak another language at home and have difficulty speaking English
Number (in thousands) 1,250 1,808 2,160 2,431 2,630 2,886 2,844 2,780 2,881 2,774 2,806 2,767 2,748 2,680 2,634 2,704 2,593 2,499
Percentage of school-age children 2.8 4.3 4.6 5.2 5.0 5.5 5.4 5.3 5.4 5.2 5.3 5.2 5.2 5.1 4.9 5.0 4.8 4.6
Language spokenc
Spanish 2.1 3.1 3.3 4.3 4.3 4.0 3.9 3.8 4.1 3.9 4.0 3.9 3.9 3.8 3.6 3.6 3.5 3.3
Other Indo-European 0.2 0.4 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.6 0.6 0.6 0.6 0.6 0.6 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5
Asian or Pacific Island languages 0.1 0.6 0.8 0.4 0.6 0.7 0.7 0.6 0.6 0.6 0.6 0.6 0.6 0.6 0.6 0.6 0.6 0.6
Other languages 0.4 0.2 0.3 0.3 0.5 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2
Race and Hispanic origind
White 2.8 4.2 4.3 4.9 5.2
White-alone 4.4 4.2 3.8 4.3 4.0 3.9 3.9 3.9 4.0 3.9 4.4 3.9 3.9
White, non-Hispanic 0.5 0.7 0.6 0.7 1.0
White-alone, non-Hispanic 1.3 1.4 1.3 1.4 1.3 1.3 1.2 1.2 1.2 1.1 1.1 1.1 1.2
Black 0.5 0.7 1.5 1.5 1.3
Black-alone 1.4 1.2 1.3 1.6 1.4 1.4 1.5 1.4 1.5 1.5 1.5 1.2 1.7
Black, non-Hispanic 0.3 0.5 1.2 0.9 1.0
Black-alone, non-Hispanic 1.2 1.0 1.2 1.3 1.2 1.3 1.3 1.2 1.2 1.3 1.3 1.2 1.4
American Indian or Alaskan Native 4.5 1.4 3.8 8.2
American Indian or Alaska Native-alone 4.6 4.4 4.4 3.8 3.1 4.1 4.0 4.2 5.3 5.4 4.8 3.9 3.7
Asian or Pacific Islander 24.5 25.0 19.4 13.9
Asian-alone 19.8 20.5 18.7 17.5 16.9 17.2 16.5 16.4 16.1 15.8 15.5 15.5 14.8
Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander-alone 10.3 8.4 6.3 6.2 7.1 7.3 6.9 6.9 6.2 7.4 5.2 7.7 8.8
Other 19.5 9.0 18.1 27.1
Some other race alone 24.7 22.1 23.8 22.0 22.2 20.7 18.9 18.7 19.1 18.4 17.7 16.6 14.8
Two or more races 4.2 3.9 3.9 3.2 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.6 2.4 2.7 2.9 2.8 2.6
Hispanic (of any race) 28.7 26.7 27.9 30.9 23.4 22.8 21.3 20.5 20.9 19.7 19.4 18.5 18.1 17.1 16.1 15.4 14.3 13.3
Education of parente
Less than high school graduate 17.8 17.0 18.2 20.3 18.6 18.7 18.4 18.7 19.0 18.0 18.1 17.1 15.9
High school graduate 4.4 4.6 4.5 5.1 4.9 5.2 5.4 5.5 5.4 5.6 5.8 5.7 5.2
Some college 3.0 3.1 2.9 2.8 2.8 2.9 2.6 2.6 2.7 2.6 2.6 2.6 2.8
Bachelor's degree or higher 2.8 2.9 2.7 2.8 2.8 2.6 2.6 2.5 2.5 2.4 2.4 2.4 2.1
Poverty statusf
Below 100% poverty 11.3 11.1 10.4 10.8 10.0 10.2 9.8 9.7 10.0 9.7 9.3 9.2 8.4
100% poverty and above 4.3 4.3 4.2 4.4 4.2 4.3 4.2 4.2 4.0 3.8 3.9 3.6 3.6
Nativity statusg
Native child and parents 1.3 1.2 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.1 1.0 1.0 1.0 1.0 1.0 0.7 1.0
Foreign-born parent 21.8 21.6 20.8 21.2 19.4 19.4 18.7 18.4 17.8 17.1 16.9 17.0 14.2
Native child 17.2 16.7 16.1 16.5 15.1 15.1 14.6 14.6 14.6 14.1 14.0 13.4 12.6
Foreign-born child 36.0 36.7 36.3 37.1 34.6 34.6 34.0 33.1 31.3 30.3 29.7 28.3 23.4
Family structure
Two married parents 5.4 5.5 5.4 5.6 5.4 5.4 5.3 5.3 5.1 4.9 4.9 4.8 4.7
Mother only 4.3 4.2 4.1 4.4 4.2 4.2 4.0 4.0 4.1 4.4 4.5 4.4 4.2
Father only 6.8 6.4 6.4 6.0 6.1 6.6 6.3 6.1 6.6 6.0 6.1 5.8 5.3
No parent 8.6 7.5 7.5 6.9 7.2 7.5 7.0 7.0 6.5 6.4 6.5 5.6 5.2
Regionh
Northeast 2.9 4.5 4.8 5.0 4.4 5.0 5.1 5.0 5.5 4.8 4.5 4.4 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.6 4.7
South 2.2 3.8 3.3 3.4 3.6 4.4 4.1 4.3 4.7 4.4 4.6 4.6 4.7 4.6 4.4 4.6 4.5 4.4
Midwest 1.1 1.2 1.5 2.3 2.0 2.8 2.9 3.0 3.2 3.2 3.1 3.0 3.0 2.9 2.9 2.9 3.0 2.9
West 6.5 8.6 9.8 11.4 10.5 10.0 9.7 9.0 8.7 8.8 8.9 8.6 8.5 8.1 8.0 7.8 7.2 6.6
— Not available.
a Respondents were asked if the children in the household spoke a language other than English at home and how well they could speak English. Categories used for reporting were “Very well,” “Well,” “Not well,” and “Not at all.” All those reported to speak English less than “Very well” were considered to have difficulty speaking English based on an evaluation of the English-speaking ability of a sample of the children in the 1980s.
b Numbers from the Current Population Survey (CPS) in 1995 and after may reflect changes in the survey because of newly instituted computer-assisted interviewing techniques and/or because of the change in the population controls to the 1990 Census-based estimates, with adjustments.
c In the 1979 CPS questionnaire, the language spoken at home variable had 10 specific categories: Chinese, Filipino, French, German, Greek, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, and Other. In the 1989 CPS questionnaire, the language spoken at home variable had 34 specific categories. In the 1992 to 1999 CPS questionnaires, the language spoken at home variable had 4 categories: Spanish, Asian, Other European, and Other. In the American Community Survey (ACS), respondents are asked the question, and their response is recorded in an open-ended format.
d From 1979 to 1999, following the 1977 Office of Management and Budget (OMB) standards for collecting and presenting data on race, the CPS asked respondents to choose one race from the following: White, Black, American Indian or Alaskan Native, or Asian or Pacific Islander. The Census Bureau also offered an “Other” category. Beginning in 2000, following the 1997 OMB standards for collecting and presenting data on race, the ACS asked respondents to choose one or more races from the following: White, Black or African American, Asian, American Indian or Alaska Native, or Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander. In addition, a “Some other race” category was included with OMB approval. Those who chose more than one race were classified as “Two or more races.” Except for those who were “Two or more races,” all race groups discussed in this table from 2000 onward refer to people who indicated only one racial identity within the racial categories presented. People who responded to the question on race by indicating only one race are referred to as the race-alone population. The use of the race-alone population in this table does not imply that it is the preferred method of presenting or analyzing data. Prior to 2000, “Asian” refers to Asians and Pacific Islanders; beginning in 2000, “Asian” refers to Asians alone. Data from 2000 onward are not directly comparable with data from earlier years. Data on race and Hispanic origin are collected separately. Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race.
e Highest level of educational attainment is shown for either parent.
f Limited to the population for whom poverty status is determined.
g Native parents means that all of the parents that the child lives with are native-born, while foreign-born means that at least one of the child’s parents is foreign-born. Anyone with U.S. citizenship at birth is considered native, which includes persons born in the United States and in U.S. outlying areas, and persons born abroad with at least one American parent.
h Regions: Northeast includes CT, MA, ME, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, and VT. South includes AL, AR, DC, DE, FL, GA, KY, LA, MD, MS, NC, OK, SC, TN, TX, VA, and WV. Midwest includes IA, IL, IN, KS, MI, MN, MO, ND, NE, OH, SD, and WI. West includes AK, AZ, CA, CO, HI, ID, MT, NM, NV, OR, UT, WA, and WY.
i A linguistically isolated household is one in which no person age 14 or over speaks English at least “Very well.” That is, no person age 14 or over speaks only English at home, or speaks another language at home and speaks English “Very well.”
NOTE: All nonresponses to the CPS language questions are excluded from the tabulations, except in 1999. In 1999, imputations were instituted for nonresponse on the language items.
SOURCE: U.S. Census Bureau, October (1992, 1995, and 1999) and November (1979 and 1989) Current Population Surveys, and 2000–2010 American Community Survey.