It’s Not Just a Matter of Speaking English: Linguistic Isolation among Older Immigrants in the U.S.
Zoya Gubernskaya, University at Albany, State University of New York (SUNY)
Judith Treas, University of California, Irvine
Population aging and continuing immigration resulted in increasing numbers of older foreign-born in the U.S. and growing concerns about their wellbeing. About 53.4% of older foreign-born report limited English-language proficiency (LEP), which is often exacerbated for individuals residing in a “linguistically isolated” household where no adult speaks English “very well”. Using the 2010 American Community Survey and employing demographic decomposition techniques, we analyze the differences in linguistic isolation rates for the immigrants age 50 and over. Linguistic isolation rates range from 11% among older Filipino foreign-born to 53.8% among older immigrants from Russia. Although LEP is important for understanding linguistic isolation rates because it defines the population “at risk”, it accounts for no more than 60% of the differences between the subgroups. The differences in linguistic isolation rates among the LEP are also substantial, and they are mostly explained by the differences in household size, headship and multigenerational status.