University of Illinois Urbana‑Champaign

Language: Limited English-Speaking Households

Learn about limited English-speaking households.

Language numbers are provided for:

  • Number of limited English-speaking households, Spanish
  • Number of limited English-speaking households, other languages

Source of data: IECAM demographers prepared estimates of population based on Census Bureau estimates for the following programs or surveys:

  • Population Estimates Program
  • American Community Survey, 5-year estimates

Geographic region: These data are available for the following geographic areas: state, county, township, municipality, state Senate district, state House district, congressional district, elementary school district, unit school district, Zip Code Tabulation Area (ZCTA), Chicago Community Area, and by ISBE region and IDHS region, which are sums of counties.

The U.S. Census Bureau defines “limited English-speaking” household as one in which no member 14 years old and over (1) speaks only English or (2) speaks a non-English language and speaks English “very well.” In other words, all members 14 years old and over have at least some difficulty with English. (U.S. Census Bureau. Census 2000)

Data are based on answer to questions: “Does this person speak a language other than English at home?” and “What is this language?”

The U.S. Census Bureau defines “household" as all the people who occupy a housing unit. (People not living in households are classified as living in group quarters.) A housing unit is a house, an apartment, a mobile home, a group of rooms, or a single room that is occupied (or if vacant, is intended for occupancy) as separate living quarters. Separate living quarters are those in which the occupants live separately from any other people in the building and which have direct access from the outside of the building or through a common hall. The occupants may be a single family, one person living alone, two or more families living together, or any other group of related or unrelated people who share living arrangements. 

Languages are those used by U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey.

For children age 5, use language of child. For children under age 5, use language of mother; if no mother is present, use language of father; if no father present, use language of head of household; if no head of household present, indicate unknown. Thus, the data represent the language spoken by the child or likely being learned by the child.

The fact that a child is reported as speaking or learning one of these non-English languages does not imply that the child does not know or is not also learning English.

A full explanation of the methodology that IECAM uses to create estimates can be found on the Methodology page.

Note: Because of pandemic-related disruptions to data collection in 2020, the U.S. Census Bureau has alerted American Community Survey (ACS) data users to expect somewhat larger margins of error in the 2016-2020 5-year estimates than in previous 5-year releases.

Years available: 2000, 2005-–2021

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