Language Diversity and English Proficiency in the United States

Report Author: 
Jeanne Batalova and Jie Zong
Original Date of Publication: 
2016 Nov

A new study reveals that 25.9 million individuals in the United States were Limited English Proficient (LEP) in 2015, including roughly half of the foreign-born population of 43.3 million. In “Language Diversity and English Proficiency in the United States,” the Migration Policy Institute presents a profile of LEP individuals ages five and older using Census data from 1980-2015. This study explores the distribution of LEP individuals by state and city, country of birth, languages spoken, race and ethnicity, education and employment, poverty and age. The years 1980-2015 saw a four percent increase (from 56 percent to 60 percent) in English proficiency, despite a significant rise in immigration levels. While the majority of LEP individuals in 2015 were foreign-born, 18 percent were native-born. Additional analysis revealed that LEP men and women are more likely to work in service occupations as well as production, transportation and material-moving occupations than their English-proficient counterparts. LEP individuals were also more likely to be less educated and to live in poverty than the English-proficient population. This analysis points to the need for further research on the impact of English language skills on the educational performance and career options of both native- and foreign-born individuals in the United States. (Sarah Purdy for The ILC Public Education Institute)



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Batalova, J.  and Jie Zong (2016). "Language Diversity and English Proficiency in the United States." Washington DC: The Migration Policy Institute. 

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Source Organization: 
Migration Policy Institute