Introduction: This report examines trends in linguistic status — Spanish monolingual, English monolingual, or bilingual — among Latinos between 1980 and 2014.
Methods: Data were obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey, reorganized for public use by the Minnesota Population Center, University of Minnesota, IPUMSusa. Linguistic status is defined using three categories: Spanish monolingual, English monolingual, and bilingual.
Results: First, the highest percentage of Latinos in the United States were bilingual, and that finding remained stable between 1980 (67%) and 2014 (66%). Second, Latinos who were Spanish monolingual had substantially lower levels of educational attainment than bilingual Latinos and Latinos who were English monolingual. Third, despite being older, Latinos who were Spanish monolingual had lower median personal incomes and higher poverty rates than bilingual Latinos and Latinos who were English monolingual.
Discussion: Although the United States is largely seen as an immigrant nation, the markedly lower levels of educational attainment for Latinos who were Spanish monolingual suggests that being domestic-born is a prerequisite for scholastic achievement. The comparatively lower rates of employment among Spanish monolingual Latinos (58% in 2014) suggests that a lack of English language skills is prohibitive to finding employment. Therefore, programs that assist or support the acquisition of English language skills for recent immigrants could serve as a pathway for higher educational and economic outcomes.