Language and Kids in Immigrant Families: What the Data Say

Posted March 8, 2018, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

Blog languageandkids 2018

In 2016, one in four chil­dren in Amer­i­ca — 18.4 mil­lion kids total — lived in an immi­grant family.

A look at lin­guis­tic data on this group of kids reveals that:

  • 90% were born in the Unit­ed States;
  • 14% have dif­fi­cul­ty speak­ing English;
  • 21% live in lin­guis­ti­cal­ly iso­lat­ed house­holds, which are homes where no one age 14 or old­er speaks exclu­sive­ly Eng­lish or Eng­lish very well; and
  • 55% live with par­ents who have dif­fi­cul­ty speak­ing English.

At the state lev­el, the rate of lin­guis­tic iso­la­tion among kids in immi­grant fam­i­lies varies wide­ly. For the 35 states where data is avail­able, Nebras­ka has the high­est rate of lin­guis­tic iso­la­tion (33%) while West Vir­ginia has the low­est rate (8%). And only four states — Penn­syl­va­nia, Con­necti­cut, Mary­land and Ohio — saw their rates increase from 2015 to 2016.

Learn­ing Eng­lish can be a game chang­er for immi­grant fam­i­lies. Par­ents and youth who can con­verse in Eng­lish are bet­ter equipped to con­nect with health care, employ­ment and their com­mu­ni­ties. Chil­dren who con­verse in Eng­lish are also bet­ter posi­tioned to engage in school and learn. For these rea­sons, it is impor­tant that immi­grant fam­i­lies receive ser­vices that both meet their basic needs and pro­mote Eng­lish proficiency.

Access more demo­graph­ic and fam­i­ly and com­mu­ni­ty data by fam­i­ly nativ­i­ty on the KIDS COUNT Data Center:

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