Fewer Latinos are speaking Spanish at home

November 1, 2017

The number of immigrant Latinos who are assimilating to the U.S. culture by learning and speaking English has increased over the past decade, according to results of a study by Pew Research Center.

More than 37 million Latinos nationwide speak Spanish at home, making it America’s most common non-English language. But, Pew researchers said on October 31, while the number of Latinos who speak Spanish at home continues to increase, due to the overall growth of the Latino population, the share of Latinos who speak the language has declined over the past decade or so.

Indeed, 73% of Latinos spoke Spanish at home in 2015—down from 78% in 2006, according to a Pew analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.

The national decline in Spanish use among Latinos extended to all of the top 25 U.S. metro areas, Pew’s study shows. The San Antonio-New Braunfels and Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale metro areas experienced some of the largest declines, with the share of immigrant Latinos who spoke Spanish in each geographic region declining by 9 percentage points.

Some of the smallest declines came in the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Sacramento-Roseville-Arden-Arcade and Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach metro areas, where the share who spoke Spanish at home declined by about 2 percentage points each from 2006 to 2015. (Click here for a sortable table of Spanish use by metro area.)

Despite this drop-off in use, most Latinos agree that speaking Spanish is a vital skill. In a 2011 Pew Research Center survey, nearly all Latino respondents said they believed that it was important that the next generation of Latinos in the U.S. speak Spanish. Yet many Latinos (71%) say it’s not necessary to speak Spanish to be considered Latino, a 2015 survey found.

Predictably enough, immigrants are much more likely to speak Spanish than those born in the United States. The large presence of immigrants in the Miami metro area, for example, helps explain why a far greater share of Latinos there speak Spanish than in metro areas such as Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, where the vast majority of Latinos are U.S.-born.

Research contact: info@pewresearch.org.