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MPI Study: Older Immigrants in the United States

Thursday, May 14, 2009

After declining steadily between 1960 and 1990, the number of older immigrants (those age 65 and over) in the United States nearly doubled between 1990 and 2007, from 2.7 million to 4.5 million. Immigrants now account for one of every nine older persons in the United States.

Some LEP Highlights

  • Over half of older immigrants in 2007 were limited English proficient.

Over half of older immigrants in 2007 were limited English proficient.
About 23.9 percent of the 4.5 million older immigrants in 2007 reported speaking "English only" while 20.4 percent reported speaking English "very well." In contrast, 55.7 percent reported speaking English less than "very well," higher than the 52.4 percent reported among all foreign born age 5 and older.

The share of older immigrants who reported speaking English less than "very well" has increased from 41.7 percent in 1990 to 51.1 percent in 2000 to 55.7 percent in 2007.

(Note: The term "limited English proficient" refers to any person age 5 and older who reported speaking English "not at all," "not well," or "well" on their survey questionnaire. Individuals who reported speaking only English or speaking English "very well" are considered proficient in English).

  • More than 40 percent of limited English proficient older immigrants in 2007 spoke Spanish.

Among older immigrants who reported speaking English less than "very well," the most common language spoken was Spanish (1.1 million, or 43.9 percent), followed by Chinese (144,000, or 5.8 percent), Russian (127,000, or 5.1 percent), Filipino or Tagalog (110,000 or 4.4 percent), Italian (105,000, or 4.2 percent), and Korean (96,000, or 3.8 percent).

Spanish was also the largest single language spoken by all limited English proficient immigrants, but it was a much larger share (12.7 million, or 64.4 percent) than among older immigrants.

After Spanish, the most common languages among all immigrants who reported speaking English less than "very well" were Chinese (758,000, or 3.8 percent), Vietnamese (664,000, or 3.4 percent), Korean (595,000, or 3.0 percent), Filipino or Tagalog (434,000, or 2.2 percent), and Russian (412,000, or 2.1 percent).

  • About one-third of older immigrants lived in linguistically isolated households in 2007.

About 30.7 percent (1,369,000) of older immigrants resided in linguistically isolated households in 2007 (meaning a household in which all members of the household age 14 and older are limited English proficient). Overall, about 30.0 percent (11.4 million) of immigrants resided in linguistically isolated households in 2007.

The share of older immigrants residing in linguistically isolated households increased from 24.2 percent in 1990 to 28.1 percent in 2000 and 30.7 percent in 2007.


Complete Report: http://www.migrationinformation.org/USfocus/display.cfm?id=727

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