Higher levels of income and educational achievement among U.S. hispanics correlate with English-language use, according to an analysis of Census 2000 data by HispanTelligence, the research arm of Hispanic Business Inc. Put another way, Hispanics who speak English exclusively or are fully bilingual are more likely to enjoy financial success and to graduate from college.
This latter group is larger than many people are apt to believe. More than 75 percent of all U.S. Hispanics either speak English exclusively or are bilingual and speak English well or very well, according to the latest Census figures (see table, "Language Capabilities").
"Those individuals who do not achieve English fluency suffer in the employment market, where these language skills are critical for high-wage jobs," says Adela de la Torre, director of Chicano Studies at the University of California at Davis. At the same time, "psychological research on individual identity, particularly for Latinos, indicates that those Latinos who can maintain their bilingual/bicultural identities are emotionally healthier."
Not surprisingly, a sizeable number of these Hispanics prefer to receive information via English-language media, according to a 2003 study by the Pew Hispanic Center. The study reports that native-born Hispanics expressed an overwhelming preference (71 percent) for English-language media, with another 20 percent choosing both English and Spanish equally.
Language preference among U.S. Hispanics is largely a function of where they were born. Only 10 percent of U.S. native-born Spanish-speakers do not speak English well or at all, according to Census 2000. Among foreign-born Spanish-speakers, however, the proportion with poor to non-existent English-language skills swells to 48 percent.