NC in Focus: English-Speaking Ability
“English-speaking ability is an important topic surrounding immigration in the United States. For the foreign born, fluency in English is associated with greater earnings and occupational mobility. Conversely, the presence of many people with limited English ability requires state and local governments to make costly adjustments, such as providing English as a Second Language classes in schools and translating official forms into multiple languages.” – Christine Gambino, Yesenia Acosta, and Elizabeth Grieco, “English-Speaking Ability of the Foreign-Born Population in the United States: 2012” from the U.S. Census Bureau
English-speaking ability among the immigrant population varies widely by country of origin, educational attainment, and time in the United States. At both the national level and within North Carolina, about half of the immigrant population (ages 5+) reported high English-speaking ability in the 2012 American Community Survey. This means that they reported either speaking only English or, if they spoke a language other than English at home, they reported that they could speak English “very well.” In North Carolina, 86% of immigrants from Europe reported high English-speaking ability, much higher than the national rate (71%). Just over two-thirds (67%) of North Carolina’s African immigrants reported high English-speaking ability compared to 60% of Asian immigrants and 35% of immigrants from Latin America & the Caribbean.
Learn more about the size and characteristics of North Carolina’s immigrant population in this post.