November 29, 2007

English Usage Among Hispanics in the United States

Methodology

This report is based mostly on six public opinion surveys conducted for the Pew Hispanic Center from April 2002 to October 2006, some in partnership with the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. They included a total of 14,057 respondents of Latino background or descent, ages 18 and older. Both foreign-born and native-born adults are included, irrespective of legal status. The surveys were conducted via telephone in Spanish or English, depending on the respondent’s preference, by International Communications Research (ICR), an independent research company in Media, Pa. All of the surveys were conducted among nationally representative samples using Random Digit Dialing Methodology.

The six surveys are:

The 2002 Pew Hispanic Center/Kaiser Family Foundation National Survey of Latinos, with 2,929 respondents (2,014 foreign born and 915 native born). The margin of error for the total sample was +/-2.41 percentage points.

The 2003 Pew Hispanic Center/Kaiser Family Foundation National Survey of Latinos: Education, with 1,508 respondents (829 foreign born, 677 native born). The margin of error is +/-3.03% for the total sample.

The 2004 Pew Hispanic Center/Kaiser Family Foundation National Survey of Latinos: Politics and Civic Participation, with 2,288 respondents (1,436 foreign born, 850 native born). The margin of error is +/-2.83% for the total sample.

The 2004 Pew Hispanic Center Latinos on the News Media Survey, with 1,316 respondents (767 foreign born, 549 native born). The survey had an overall margin of error of +/- 3.42%.

The 2006 National Survey of Latinos: The Immigration Debate, with 2,000 respondents (1,546 foreign born, 452 native born). The survey had a margin of error of +/-3.8% for the total sample.

The 2006 Changing Faiths: Latinos and the Transformation of American Religion survey, with 4,016 respondents (3,067 foreign born, 949 native born). The margin of error for the total sample is +/-2.5%.

Each survey employed for this project asked respondents an identical battery of questions regarding language ability and usage, both English and Spanish. The questions included the following:

1) Would you say you can carry on a conversation in English, both understanding and speaking: very well, pretty well, just a little or not at all?

2) Would you say you can read a newspaper or book in English: very well, pretty well, just a little or not at all?

3) Would you say you can carry on a conversation in Spanish, both understanding and speaking: very well, pretty well, just a little or not at all?

4) Would you say you can read a newspaper or book in Spanish: very well, pretty well, just a little or not at all?

5) What language do you usually speak at home? Only Spanish, more Spanish than English, both equally, more English than Spanish or only English?

6) What language do you usually speak at work? Only Spanish, more Spanish than English, both equally, more English than Spanish or only English?

In reporting on beliefs about discrimination based on language use, we also drew from the forthcoming 2007 National Survey of Latinos, conducted for the Pew Hispanic Center from October 3 to November 9, 2007. It was based on questioning a total of 2003 persons of Latino descent, ages 18 and older. The margin of error for the total sample was +/-2.63%.

The methodology for 2007 NSL was the same as for the earlier surveys, except that a sample of people who have cell phones but no landlines was included.

The questions on discrimination included the following:

We know that discrimination can result from many factors. Which of the following do you consider the biggest cause of discrimination against Hispanics/Latinos? Their income levels and education; their skin color; their language skills; their immigration status.