New Census Data Details Major Changes in Language Landscape

More Than 40% of Californians Speak a Tongue Other Than English at Home

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LOS ANGELES ( -- If you want to communicate with California, you may need to try a language other than English or even Spanish. A full 42% of Californians speak a language other than English at home, with two-thirds of that group (28%) speaking Spanish and the rest speaking some other tongue. Not coincidentally, 27% of Californians are foreign-born, the highest in the nation.

Flip side
On the flip side, West Virginia has the lowest percentage of foreign-born residents (1%) and highest share of English speakers (99%). Some 95% of West Virginia residents are white and non-Hispanic (vs. 43% in California). But West Virginia has the lowest share of college graduates: Just 17% of residents have a degree, vs. 30% in California.

These are among the findings from the first major release of the American Community Survey, a Census Bureau program that each year will provide a demographic portrait of the nation based on a survey of 3 million households. The survey replaces the old "long form" version of the every-10-year census.

New data released
The Census Bureau last week released survey data on demographics, with results on economics, housing and other details to follow in coming months. Among the new data:

Ancestry: 17% of Americans say their roots are German, the largest ancestral group; 12% say their background is Irish; English (10%) ranks third. The fourth-largest group: 7% of the population says its ancestral background is "American."

Immigrants: One in eight residents (12.4%) are immigrants (legal or illegal), up from 11% in 2000. Latin America accounts for more than half (53%) of the immigrant population; 27% came from Asia/Pacific. Nearly one-third (31%) of immigrants are from Mexico; there are an estimated 11 million Mexican-born residents in the U.S., greater than the population of all but seven states.

Age and household
Age and household: Utah has the nation's youngest median age (28.5), highest percentage of households with children (44%) and largest families (average 3.1 people). The oldest state? Maine (median age 41.2). In Florida, 29% of households have residents age 65-plus, the highest in the nation, but the Sunshine State ranks sixth in median age (39.5). Nation's median age: 36.4.

Education: 27% of U.S. adults (age 25+) have a bachelor's degree; 10% have an advanced degree. Massachusetts scores first among states in percentage of residents with a bachelor's (37%) or advanced degree (16%). Among large cities, San Francisco is by far the most educated: 50% of residents are college graduates.

They love New York: 21% of the state's residents are foreign-born, second highest after California. But native New Yorkers stay home (or come home); 82% of New York's U.S.-born residents were born in the state, the highest percentage in the nation.

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