No matter where you were born, if you live in the United States, English is an important language. However, for people who were born outside the country, knowledge of English typically provides greater access to what the United States has to offer.
At the same time, it is also important that, where possible, people have access to key information in the language that they understand best, whether that’s English or another language. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about a hospital that offers interpretation services to help patients learn about what is happening to their bodies and how to keep themselves healthy, or a school that offers parents a choice of bilingual forms so parents can better understand the choices available for their kids.
But what do we know about the United States’ foreign-born population? The Pew Research Center has released some statistical clues with the Hispanic Trends Project’s look at the 2012 American Community Survey from the Census Bureau. Let’s take a closer look.
Population and Citizenship
Lots of people call the United States home. As of 2012, the U.S. population was 313,914,040. 87 percent were born in the United States, while 13 percent were born abroad. Of those 13 percent, 5.9 percent had become U.S. citizens, while 7 percent were non-citizens.
Country of Birth
Where do the U.S.’s foreign-born residents hail from? Well, by a wide margin, most foreign-born U.S. residents are from Mexico – 28.2 percent. The second biggest group is from India at a distant 4.8 percent. Third and fourth place go to the Philippines and China with 4.6 and 4.2 percent respectively. Interestingly, if we total the amount of residents who are from Spanish-speaking countries, we can say that 46.05 percent of the U.S.’s foreign-born population are most likely native Spanish speakers, making Spanish the U.S.’s most important foreign language.
51.5 percent of foreign-born adults reported they believe they speak English less than very well. These are the residents who would most likely desire services and information in their own native language. In contrast, 48.6 of foreign-born adults reported they only speak English at home or they speak English very well. As a result, this slightly smaller group of residents may not feel the need for services and information in their own native language.