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Language data that used to be collected every 10 years in the census is now collected annually from The American Community Survey. Sources of language data are listed below with brief descriptions to help you decide which data source would best suit your needs. Availability of data by time and geography are highlighted in the sections below. The links below will take you to the appropriate page for language use data by data source.
The American Community Survey is a national annual survey that provides communities with reliable and timely demographic, housing, social, and economic data.
Data on language use and English-speaking ability are available for the U.S., states, counties, selected metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas, and more specific geographic areas that meet minimum population sizes for the given survey year. There are about 35 recurring tables on languages spoken and English-speaking ability.
Data are available from 2005 to the present.
The decennial census occurs every 10 years, in years ending in zero, to count the population and housing units for the entire United States. Its primary purpose is to provide the population counts that determine how seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are apportioned.
The same questions on language use and English-speaking ability were asked in 1980, 1990, and 2000. Various questions on language were asked in the censuses from 1890 to 1970, including questions on "mother tongue" (the language spoken in the personís home when he or she was a child) or were asked only of the foreign-born population.