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Language Spoken at Home

Variable Definitions:

Language Spoken at Home: The percentage of people 5 years and older who speak one of five languages most of the time at home. These languages are:

  • Chinese (including Mandarin and Cantonese)
  • Korean
  • Only English
  • Spanish
  • Tagalog (including Filipino)

American Community Survey, 5-Year Estimates, Table C16001

Years Available:

2016, 2017, 2018, 2019

*Note: Each year of available data shown above is a 5-year estimate, or an average of data collected over a five year period. 5-year estimates are used to increase the reliability of the data at small geographies like neighborhoods and census tracts. The years shown on the NDSC map represent the final year of the five year average (e.g. “2010” represents 2006-2010 data, “2011” represents 2007-2011 data, and so on). For the most impactful comparison of data over time, the ACS recommends comparing non-overlapping years (e.g. 2010-14 with 2015-19).

Why are these variables important to measure?

Language Spoken at Home
Respondents were asked whether they sometimes or always spoke a language other than English at home. If yes, they wrote in the language spoken most often at home. Respondents who only spoke another language at school, or if speaking was limited to only slang, were not marked as speaking another language.

Understanding the primary language spoken in a neighborhood can have important implications for local government, business and schools. Children with non-English speaking parents experience a disadvantage in not having a parent who can help with nightly English homework.  At the same time, the ability to master more than one language can improve a child’s critical thinking abilities.  Data on languages spoken can also help local governments and businesses better understand their clientele and cater translations to the local community. This information, used alongside information about housing, voting, employment and education, is also used by the government to help enforce laws against discrimination.

American Community Survey. 2017 Subject Definitions. Link

The National Center for Cultural and Linguistic Responsiveness. “The Benefits of Being Bilingual”, 2012. Link.

US Census Bureau. “Why We Ask Questions about Language Spoken at Home”, 2016. Link.

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