Report: Half Of Immigrants In The U.S. Have Limited English Proficiency

AP Photo/Jessie L. Bonner
AP Photo/Jessie L. Bonner

Half of the immigrants in the United States have limited English proficiency (LEP), according to a new report from the Migration Policy Institute.

According to the most recent data, of the the total 41.3 million immigrants in the United States in 2013 about half, 20.4 million, spoke English less than “very well.”

The report notes that LEP individuals tend to be less educated and poorer than English speakers.

“Compared to the English-proficient population, the LEP population was less educated and more likely to live in poverty,” the Migration Policy Institute reports. “Employed LEP men in 2013 were more likely to work in construction, natural resources, and maintenance occupations than English-proficient men, while LEP women were much more likely to be employed in service and personal-care occupations than English-proficient women.”

While LEP residents accounted for about 8 percent of the total population in the U.S., the Migration Policy Institute reports that California had the highest percentage with LEP people making up 19 percent of the population. Texas had the second highest percentage at 14 percent, followed by New York and Hawaii both with 13 percent.

The report notes that by far, the language most likely to be spoken by an LEP individual is Spanish.

“Spanish was the predominant language spoken by both immigrant and U.S.-born LEP individuals. About 64 percent (16.2 million) of the total LEP population spoke Spanish, followed by Chinese (1.6 million, or 6 percent), Vietnamese (847,000, 3 percent), Korean (599,000, 2 percent), and Tagalog (509,000, 2 percent). Close to 80 percent of the LEP population spoke one of these five languages,” the report reads.

Of the total LEP immigrant population 39 percent were from Mexico, China had the second highest proportion at 6 percent, El Salvador had 4 percent, Vietnam had 4 percent, Cuba had 3 percent, and the Dominican Republic had 3 percent.

“Foreign-born LEP individuals were less likely than the overall immigrant population to be naturalized citizens (36 percent versus 47 percent, respectively),” the report reads.

The Migration Policy Institute notes that as of 2013, there were about 61.1 million people in the U.S. who spoke a language other than English at home. Most spoke English well but about 25.1 million or 41 percent were considered LEP.


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