Study: English preferred by Hispanic
THE NEW YORK TIMES
WASHINGTON - English remains the language of choice among the
children and grandchildren of Hispanic immigrants, a new
analysis of census data shows.
This is occurring despite continuing waves of migration from
Latin America and concerns from some analysts that English may
lose ground to Spanish in some parts of the United States.
The study, conducted by researchers at the State University of
New York at Albany, is the latest foray in a fierce debate
about whether the continuing stream of immigration from Latin
America will challenge assimilation patterns charted by the
descendants of European migrants.
Scholars say that the descendants of most European immigrants
who arrived in the late 19th and 20th centuries became
exclusively English-speakers within three generations.
In recent years, some people have questioned whether the
descendants of Hispanic immigrants will follow suit, given the
surging numbers of Spanish-speaking arrivals and the emphasis
on multiculturalism and increased globalization.
The study, which examined data from the 2000 census, found
that most Hispanic-Americans were also moving steadily toward
English monolingualism. The report found that 72 percent of
Hispanic children who were third-generation or later spoke
The report suggested that the trend had generally continued
among Mexican-Americans, the country's largest immigrant
group, even during the immigration boom of the 1990s.
In 1990, 64 percent of third- and later-generation
Mexican-American children spoke only English at home, the
study showed. By 2000, that figure had risen to 71 percent.
In 2003, about 33 million foreign-born people lived in the
United States, accounting for nearly 12 percent of the
population, census statistics show. Fifty-three percent of
those immigrants were born in Latin America and half had
arrived since 1990.
About 757,000 of Arizona's 5.5 million people were
foreign-born in 2003, according to census figures. Of the
people in Arizona who were born in another country, about
550,000 were from Latin America, census statistics show.
In Pima County, about 105,000 of the county's 871,000 people
in 2003 were foreign-born, according to census statistics. Of
that total, about 73,000 were born in Latin America, the
census' American Community Survey shows.
Richard Alba, director of the Lewis Mumford Center for
Comparative Urban and Regional Research at SUNY-Albany, says
the study suggests that many people have underestimated the
pressures of assimilation, which continue to drive immigrants
and their descendants toward English as they seek success in
the American mainstream.
Even for Hispanics in Los Angeles, a magnet for immigration
from Latin America, the pattern of language shifts across
generations remained similar to those among Hispanics
nationally, he said.
"A number of people, whether from the left or the right, are
underplaying the contemporary signs of assimilation," Alba
"They are viewing American society as much more fractured
along ethnic and cultural lines than really appears to be the
case," he said. "There are fault lines, but they are not as
deep as people think."
Alba uncovered some notable exceptions to the trend,
finding that larger percentages of Hispanics maintained
bilingualism in the third generation than did their earlier
Such bilingualism mainly occurs in communities along the
Mexican border, where Spanish has been widely spoken for
generations, and among Dominican immigrants who maintain close
ties to their home country, the study found.