Adult Learners:
Percent of Adults Age 18 to 64 Who Speak English Poorly or Not at All

For the Year

Adults Who Speak English Poorly or Not at All

Why is this important?

The ability to speak English is a necessity in the American work place, without this basic skill adults will find it difficult to find full-time, living wage employment (defined as families earning 200% of minimum wage).

What are the policy implications?

Speaking English assists adults in obtaining and keeping full-time work, completing high school or the GED, and continuing to higher education. Adults who do not have the ability to speak English (either poorly or not at all) are more likely to be in poverty, unemployed, underemployed, and/or uninsured.

The percentage of individuals aged 18 to 64 who speak English poorly or not at all ranges from over 13% in California to a low of below one percent in less diverse states like North Dakota, Vermont, Montana, and West Virginia. Therefore, each state will need to determine how much of their state resources should go into ESL programming.

Other factors to consider:

Additional potential target populations of interest to state policymakers that include adults challenged by their lack of English language skills are under- educated low wage earners and incarcerated adults.

Undereducated Adults Not Earning a Living Wage

Data sources and related links:

U.S. Census Bureau, http://www.censu

2005 American Community Survey, http://