Census Survey Details Shifting Hispanic Language Patterns

Nine out of 10 Latino Youths Speak English Well

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LOS ANGELES (AdAge.com) -- A new Census Bureau survey offers a detailed portrait of the Hispanic market. Or make that Hispanic markets.

Vast differences
The survey of 3 million U.S. households, released this month, reveals vast differences in English proficiency between young and old and the varied makeup of Hispanics state by state.

Young Hispanics are decidedly more fluent in English and less likely to speak Spanish at home, according to an analysis by Ad Age's American Demographics of the 2005 American Community Survey.

At home language
At home, 76% of Hispanics ages 5-17 speak Spanish (alone or in addition to English), vs. 89% of Hispanics 18-64 and 94% of those 65 and older.

Nearly three-fourths (72%) of Hispanics 5-17 speak English "very well"; another 18% speak English "well." So nine in 10 Hispanic youth are able to communicate well in English.

In contrast, fewer than half (47%) of those ages 18-64 speak English "very well," and 19% speak English "well." Among those 65 and older, just 36% speak English "very well" and 19% "well."

Language age gap
Among Hispanics 5-17, 2% do not speak English, compared with 13% of 18- to 64-year-olds and 22% of those 65 and older.

Latin American immigrants accounted for 6.6% of U.S. households in 2005, according to the survey. California led that category with 15% foreign-born Hispanics. Latino immigrants also made up at least 10% of the population in Florida (13.6%), Texas (12%), Nevada (10.7%), and Arizona and New York (both 10.6%).

People born in Latin America made up the smallest share of the population in West Virginia, Vermont and Montana (all 0.2%) and Maine and North Dakota (0.3%).

Nationally, 53% of immigrants were born in Latin America. People born in Latin America make up the biggest share of the immigrant population in New Mexico (78%), Texas (76%), and Florida and Arizona (73%).

Illegal immigrants
The survey includes both legal and illegal immigrants.

The U.S. Hispanic population, including immigrants and those born in the U.S., totaled 41.9 million, or 14.5% of the nation's population, in 2005, according to the survey.

Hispanics' median age is 27.2 (26.8 for males, 27.6 for females). That's nine years younger than the U.S. median (36.4). One-third of Hispanics (34%, or 14 million) are under 18.

People of Mexican origin make up 64% of the U.S. Hispanic population; 9% of Hispanics in the U.S. have roots in Puerto Rico, 7% in Central America, 5% in South America, and 3% each in Cuba and the Dominican Republic. The rest of the Hispanic population has roots in Spain or elsewhere.

Ancestry by state
Hispanic ancestry varies widely by state. People born in Mexico account for more than 90% of the Latin American immigrant population in Wyoming, Arizona, Idaho and Colorado; 85% in Texas; 80% in California; and 58% nationally. In contrast, only 12% of Florida's Latino immigrants are from Mexico, as are just 10% of New York's. Vermont is lowest, with just 2% of its -- very small -- Latino immigrant population coming from Mexico.

The survey shows that Hispanic adults significantly trail the nation on one score: education. Just 8% of Hispanic males and 9% of females 25 and older have a bachelor's degree, compared with 18% of males and 17% of females in the overall population.

More demographic data from the American Community Survey can be found at the Census Bureau's site (www.census.gov) and in the American Demographics section at AdAge.com. The Census Bureau will release survey findings on economics, housing and other details in coming months.

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