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Blog Category: Nancy Potok

New Census Bureau Interactive Map Shows Languages Spoken in America

New Census Bureau Interactive Map Shows Languages Spoken in America

Spanish, Chinese Top Non-English Languages Spoken; Most of Population is English Proficient

The U.S. Census Bureau today released an interactive, online map pinpointing the wide array of languages spoken in homes across the nation, along with a detailed report on rates of English proficiency and the growing number of speakers of other languages.

The 2011 Language Mapper shows where people speaking specific languages other than English live, with dots representing how many people speak each of 15 different languages. For each language, the mapper shows the concentration of those who report that they speak English less than "very well," a measure of English proficiency. The tool uses data collected through the American Community Survey from 2007 to 2011.

"This map makes it easy for anyone to plan language services in their community," said Nancy Potok, the Census Bureau's acting director. "Businesses can tailor communications to meet their customers' needs. Emergency responders can use it to be sure they communicate with people who need help. Schools and libraries can offer courses to improve English proficiency and offer materials written in other languages."

The languages available in the interactive map include Spanish, French, French Creole, Italian, Portuguese, German, Russian, Polish, Persian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Tagalog and Arabic. After selecting one of these languages from the menu, users will see a national population density map, with each dot representing about 100 people who speak the language at home placed where these speakers are concentrated. The map also allows users to zoom in to a smaller geographic area, where each dot represents 10 people. The dots were placed in a random location within census tracts to protect the confidentiality of speakers.

Increase in Non-English Speakers

Also released today, the report, Language Use in the United States: 2011, [PDF] details the number of people speaking languages other than English at home and their ability to speak English, by selected social and demographic characteristics. It shows that more than half (58 percent) of U.S. residents 5 and older who speak a language other than English at home also speak English "very well." The data, taken from the American Community Survey, are provided for the nation, states and metropolitan and micropolitan areas.

The report shows that the percent speaking English "less than very well" grew from 8.1 percent in 2000 to 8.7 percent in 2007, but stayed at 8.7 percent in 2011. The percent speaking a language other than English at home went from 17.9 percent in 2000 to 19.7 percent in 2007, while continuing upward to 20.8 percent in 2011.

"This study provides evidence of the growing role of languages other than English in the national fabric," said Camille Ryan, a statistician in the Census Bureau's Education and Social Stratification Branch and the report's author. "Yet, at the same time that more people are speaking languages other than English at home, the percentage of people speaking English proficiently has remained steady."

Spotlight on Commerce: Nancy Potok, Associate Director for Demographic Programs

Nancy Potok, Associate Director for Demographic Programs

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series, which highlights members of the Department of Commerce who are contributing to the president's vision of an America Built to Last.

I direct the Demographic programs at the Census Bureau. We calculate annual population estimates for each area of the US, calculate the official poverty rate numbers, and work with data from the decennial census and the American Community Survey to create numerous reports and products that inform our nation about the changing characteristics of our growing population. We also conduct surveys on behalf of other Federal agencies such as the National Crime Victims Survey, which the Bureau of Justice Statistics uses to calculate the crime rate, the Current Population Survey, which the Bureau of Labor Statistics uses to calculate the unemployment rate each month, and many others.  One unsung area of the Census is our strong international program. That group, in cooperation with USAID and other agencies, offers technical assistance to countries on how to set up their own scientific and objective statistical activities and conduct censuses and surveys of their population.

The President has laid out a vision to build an America that lasts, and the Census Bureau contributes to that future. Much of the data that we produce is used by state and local Economic Development Authorities to bring businesses to their area.  Businesses use the information to make relocation decisions and to target their marketing appropriately.  We also report, at various geographic levels such as states, counties, cities, and small towns, on educational attainment, income, poverty, how people make various use of government assistance programs, and other critical information needed to inform our communities on how we as a nation are doing and where we need to invest our resources to strengthen our future.  Without the data collected by the Census Bureau, we would not have the information we need to grow our economy, create jobs, improve our schools, build roads, and other activities critical to our civil society.

I grew up in Detroit, but have been living in the Washington, DC area for many years now. I earned my Masters in Administrative Science from the University of Alabama and then became a Presidential Management Fellow at the US Department of Transportation. I went on to earn my Ph.D. in Public Policy and Public Administration from the George Washington University. Since I enjoy school and learning so much, I’ve returned as an adjunct professor there, teaching in the Trachtenberg School of Public policy and Public Administration.

Listening to Local Businesses in South Carolina

Under Secretary Nancy Potok tours South Carolina MTU, a German-owned diesel engine company with plant manager Jeorge Klisch.

Guest blog post by Nancy Potok, Commerce Deputy Under Secretary, Economics and Statistics Administration

In the heart of South Carolina’s picturesque horse community, I sat down at the Aiken County Chamber of Commerce to begin the first of two White House Business Council roundtable discussions with local business owners in Aiken and Columbia, S.C.  These discussions, focused on rural communities during the month of August, are designed to provide an intimate forum for local businesses to discuss the obstacles they face in creating jobs and growing their businesses. 

Attending that discussion, along with about 20 others was Jeorge Klisch, the plant manager of MTU, a German-owned diesel engine company formerly known as “Detroit Diesel” that has been located in Aiken about a year.  Earlier that morning I took a tour of MTU’s state of the art facility located about twelve miles outside Aiken in the once thriving manufacturing community of Graniteville, S.C.. Having grown up in Detroit with the required elementary school field trip to an automotive plant, I was expecting a hot, loud and oil covered environment.  In contrast, MTU was temperature controlled, clean and high tech.  During the tour, Klitsch shared with me their plans to  bring another 200 jobs to the Aiken area, the need for a skilled workforce, and his efforts to collaborate with surrounding area high schools and technical colleges to adjust their curriculum and support his “ work and learn” initiative that will help fill MTU’s future  need for engineers and technicians.  I noticed an absence of women in the workplace, but before I asked about it, Klisch said he want to dispel myths held by women about manufacturing jobs and plans to focus on introducing young women and girls to manufacturing, where they are significantly underrepresented at MTU.  MTU exports about 50 percent of its products and has invested more than $77 million in this new site with plans for expansion and increased production.  Very impressive and a great indication of the growth potential in the Aiken area.