Linguistic Isolation Patterns

Goto ProximityOne  Size and distribution data on speakers of languages other than English and on their English speaking ability are important for many reasons. These data help us understand where populations with special needs exist and how they are changing. The data are used in a wide-ranging legislative, policy, and research applications. Many legal, financial and marketing decisions involving language-based issues make use of data on language use and English-speaking ability.

This post reviews data useful to analyze “household linguistic isolation” based on American Community Survey (ACS) 5-year estimates at the block group geographic level. The same scope of subject matter is available for higher level geography.  The following graphic shows patterns of linguistic isolation in Queens County, NY.  Block groups colored in red have more than 50-percent of households where no household member age 14 years and over speaks English “very well”.

Patterns of Linguistic Isolation; Queens County, NYli_queens

One definition of a “linguistically isolated household” is a household in which all adults have substantial limitation in communicating English. In the ACS data, a household is classified as “linguistically isolated” if 1) no household member age 14 years and over spoke only English, and 2) no household member age 14 years and over who spoke another language spoke English “very well”.

Like many demographic measures, linguistic isolation tends to be “masked” when analyzing data for larger geographic areas, even census tracts, are used. Block group geography provides an ability to locate linguistic isolation in sub-neighborhood areas.

Census Block Groups sit in a “mid-range” geography between census blocks and census tracts. All cover the U.S. wall-to-wall and nest together, census blocks being the lowest common denominator for each. Block Groups (BGs) are the smallest geographic area for which annually updated American Community Survey (BG) data are tabulated.

Advantages of using BG geodemographics include the maximum degree of geographic drill-down (using ACS data) … enabling the most micro-perspective of demographics for a neighborhood or part of study area. A disadvantages of using BG estimates is that typically the smaller area estimates have a relatively higher error of estimate.

Language Spoken by Households
The table presented below shows data from ACS Table B16002 Households by Linguistic Isolation for block group 1 in census tract 046300 in Queens County (081) New York (36); geoid=360810463001. This block group is shown in the above map at the pointer. Data for this block group are shown in the rightmost column of the table below. 62.8 percent of households (610) are linguistically isolated (232+60+91).

Table B16002. Household Language by Households
Item Code Item Description Households
B16002001 Total 610
B16002002   English only 12
B16002003   Spanish language 321
B16002004     No one 14 and over speaks English only or speaks English “very well” 232
B16002005     At least one person 14 and over speaks English only or speaks English “very well” 89
B16002006   Other Indo-European languages: 60
B16002007     No one 14 and over speaks English only or speaks English “very well” 60
B16002008     At least one person 14 and over speaks English only or speaks English “very well” 0
B16002009   Asian & Pacific Island languages: 217
B16002010     No one 14 and over speaks English only or speaks English “very well” 91
B16002011     At least one person 14 and over speaks English only or speaks English “very well” 126
B16002012   Other languages: 0
B16002013     No one 14 and over speaks English only or speaks English “very well” 0
B16002014     At least one person 14 and over speaks English only or speaks English “very well” 0

“Language Spoken” categories are based on four major language groups.

Next Steps
Use the CV APIGateway to access Table B16002 and related data for block groups in cities or counties of interest.  Join us in the upcoming December 17, 2013 one hour web session where we talk about using the ACS 2012 5-year demographics for small area analysis.  Those new data are scheduled to be released that day.

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