English proficiency on rise among Latinos living in U.S.: study

Reuters News
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Posted: May 12, 2015 2:11 PM

(Reuters) - English proficiency is on the rise among Latinos in the United States and a record 33.2 million Hispanics, or about two-thirds of the nation's Hispanic population, are now competent in the language, a Pew Research Center study showed on Tuesday.

The center said that meant 68 percent of all Hispanics in the country ages five and older were proficient in English in 2013, up from 59 percent in 2000.

The study, which analyzed U.S. Census Bureau data, also found that the share of Latinos who say they speak Spanish at home has been declining over the last 13 years.

In 2013, 73 percent of Hispanics ages five and older were reported to speak Spanish at home, the researchers said, down from 78 percent in 2000.

Despite this decline, a record 35.8 million Hispanics speak Spanish at home, the study said, adding that the number continued to increase as the nation's Hispanic population grows.

The study said the shifts had coincided with U.S.-born Hispanics comprising a growing share of the overall U.S. Latino population, and with a slowdown in immigration to the United States from Latin America.

In 2013, U.S.-born Hispanics outnumbered foreign-born Hispanics almost two-to-one, or by 35 million to 19 million, the study said. Since 2000, it said, U.S. Hispanic population growth has been driven primarily by U.S. births, not new immigrants.

Fully 89 percent of U.S.-born Latinos spoke English proficiently in 2013, the study said, up from 72 percent in 1980. Almost half of U.S.-born Latinos said in 2013 they spoke English "very well," it said, up from 40 percent in 1980.

"By contrast, the share of foreign-born Latinos who speak English proficiently is little changed since 1980," the researchers said.

In 2013, 34 percent of those born outside the United States spoke English proficiently, up from 31 percent in 1980.

(Reporting by Daniel Wallis in Denver; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Lisa Lambert)