Why the Number of Bilingual U.S. Hispanics May Continue to Rise

Many have predicted that bilingualism amongst U.S. Hispanics will decrease in the coming years. Here’s why that may not necessarily be the case…

In a recent post, we shared the stat that 14 million U.S. Hispanics age 18 or older are bilingual. This represents approximately 40% of U.S. Hispanics in that age range.

But as immigration decreases, and the number of Hispanics born and raised in the United States grows, the question has been raised whether English-Spanish bilingualism will begin to lose some ground.

A recent Univision article, headlined “Will Hispanic bilingualism survive in the United States?, notes that bilingualism tends to peak with the second generation (meaning the children of immigrants) and then decline with the third generation (their children).

But the article also states: “While many predicted that Spanish was never likely to erode the dominance of English in the United States to any significant degree, the number of bilingual speakers keeps growing, even as immigration declines.”

3 Reasons Being Bilingual Will Remain Popular with U.S. Hispanics

Here are a few reasons the number of bilingual U.S. Hispanics may not continue to decrease with future generations:

1. Speaking Spanish is a way to recognize heritage

Pew Research Center found that “95% of Latinos say it’s important for future generations to speak Spanish”. For many U.S. Hispanics, teaching their children the language is an important way to preserve their heritage and connect them with the past. 

2. There is less of a stigma attached to speaking Spanish in America

In the past, immigrants were looking to move away from the Spanish to better assimilate to America. Things are different now. Spanish has become a part of American culture. It’s the second most spoken language in the U.S.

In the Univision article, Mark Hugo Lopez, director of Hispanic research at Pew, is quoted as saying: “When I was growing up, speaking Spanish was something that people didn’t do. People were trying to run away from all those things that were Mexican. That’s changed now.”

3. Being bilingual today can be a professional and economic advantage

With more Spanish speakers in the U.S., and more companies working on a global scale, being bilingual has become a desired skill by many employers. That’s another strong motivation for U.S. Hispanics to continue learning and speaking both English and Spanish.

The Univision article shares these two compelling stats:

  • Dual-language programs have exploded in the U.S., growing from 260 programs in 2000 to around 2,500 in 2014.
  • A University of Florida study found that fully bilingual Floridian Hispanics earn $7,000 more each year than their monolingual, English-speaking counterparts.

These three things all point to the potential for bilingualism amongst the growing U.S. Hispanic population to continue holding steady (and possibly even increasing) for decades to come.