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English Skills of Spanish-Speaking People Rose Sharply Since 2010

MONDAY, JAN 27, 2020

The percentage of Spanish-speaking people in the United States who speak English “less than very well” has fallen sharply over the last decade, according to a Social Explorer analysis of 2010-18 Census Bureau data from the American Community Survey.

Slightly more than 46 percent of people who spoke Spanish at home in 2010 described their English-speaking abilities as “less than very well.” The figure had dropped to 40.5 percent by 2018, even as the total Spanish-speaking population rose more than 13 percent to almost 40.3 million people.

Spanish-speakers whose English skills are “less than very well" from the year 2010 to 2018. Click here to explore further.

The figures indicate a higher degree of assimilation by one key indicator among people of Latin ancestry than has been portrayed by conservative politicians. President Donald Trump, who promised to build a wall sealing off the U.S.-Mexican border—at Mexico’s expense — has been criticized for inflammatory comments about Mexican immigrants, implying many are criminals.

The percentage of Spanish speakers who didn’t speak English well dropped in almost three of every four metropolitan and micropolitan areas, declining most across the Deep South. The percentages fell from 55 percent in South Carolina in 2010 to 43 percent in 2018. In Alabama and Georgia, the figures dropped from almost 55 percent to roughly 43 percent.

Most of the largest declines in the percentage of Spanish-speakers who described their English as poor occurred in small cities where the overall Spanish-speaking population declined, too. The percentage of Spanish-speakers whose English was poor fell most in Madisonville, Ky., dropping from 64 percent in 2010 to which had the biggest decline in the nation, the percentage of Spanish-speakers whose English was described as poor fell from 64 percent in 2010 to 12.9 percent in 2018; the overall Spanish-speaking population fell more than 48 percent.

Other small cities registered large decreases in the number of Spanish-speakers with limited English skills, including Pierre, S.D. (a 37 percent decline to 11.2 percent); Lebanon, Mo. (a 36.7 percent decrease to 9.8 percent); and Jennings, La. (a 36.7 percent decrease to 6.3 percent).

Among bigger places, 19 of the 20 largest metros showed fewer Spanish-speakers with limited English skills. The New York-Newark-Jersey City metropolitan statistical area saw its number of Spanish-speakers with poor English decline by 3.2 percent, down to 44.7 percent. Among the largest metros, only St. Louis registered an increase. The number of Spanish-speakers with limited skills fell 0.5 percent to 35 percent during the decade.

The cities that registered the largest increases in Spanish-speakers with limited English skills were all located in Mississippi, including Brookhaven, Miss., where the figure rose from 13.1 percent in 2010 to 73.2 percent in 2018; Natchez, where the number rose from 41.6 percent to 75.5 percent; and Grenada, where Spanish-speaking people with limited English skills rose from 36.3 percent to 69.7 percent.


Author: Frank Bass

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