New report shows troubling statistics of immigrants and illiteracy

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A new report reveals that most Hispanics immigrants in the U.S. can barely speak, understand or write in English.

Even those who have lived in this country for a long time reportedly aren’t proficient in English, according to The Center for Immigration Studies, which recently found that 67 percent of Hispanics don’t have English proficiency even after living in America for 15 years.

In general, 63 percent of Hispanics have a “below basic” understanding of the English language.

The study also uncovered the fact that 41 percent of all immigrants in the U.S. can’t speak or read English.

Even immigrant children are being left behind, according to CIS, which found: “The children of Hispanic immigrants score at the 34th percentile, and 22 percent are below basic. In addition, just 5 percent of second-generation Hispanics have ‘elite’ literacy skills, compared to 14 percent of natives overall.”

The study’s author, independent public policy analyst Jason Richwine, PhD, said, “The importance of English literacy cannot be overstated. Without language proficiency, immigrant families will find it difficult to succeed in the mainstream of American society, and high rates of English illiteracy may be a sign of poor immigrant assimilation. Policymakers should take note.”

Richwine used a direct test of English literacy administered by the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) in his research, which found:

  • 41 percent of immigrants score at or below the lowest level of English literacy.
  • The average immigrant scores at the 21st percentile of the native score distribution.
  • The average Hispanic immigrant scores at the 8th percentile, with 63 percent falling below basic.
  • 67 percent of Hispanic immigrants in the U.S. more than 15 years score “below basic.”
  • The average literacy score of Hispanic immigrants who self-report that they speak English “very well” or “well” falls at the 18th percentile, and 44 percent are below basic.
  • Immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for more than 15 years only score in the 20th percentile, with 43 percent scoring below basic.

The study also found that low-skilled immigrants will likely pass their illiteracy down to their offspring, who score on average at the 34th percentile; 22 percent being below basic.

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