March 7, 2018

Language and Kids in Immigrant Families: What the Data Say

Young person from immigrant family learning English

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: