Nearly a third of New Jersey residents now speak a language other than English at home and the population of people who were born outside the U.S. continues to grow, new Census data shows.
About 2.6 million residents, or 30.7 percent, above the age of 5 speak a language other than English at home, according to U.S. Census Bureau numbers released Thursday. That’s an increase of 1.5 percentage points over the last 10 years.
By comparison, non-English speakers increased 0.8 percentage points nationwide.
New Jersey has eclipsed New York in the number of non-English speaking residents and now ranks fourth in the U.S. behind Texas, New Mexico and California, according to the data.
The Census data is an annual demographic snapshot of New Jersey based on surveys conducted during the five year period from 2012 to 2016. Using the same survey covering 2007 to 2011, a decade of population changes can be analyzed.
New Jersey’s total population increased by more than 162,000 in the last decade. At 8.92 million, it’s about 85,000 residents short of reaching 9 million. The national population increased by about four percent to roughly 319 million people, the data shows.
The most prevalent language spoken in New Jersey other than English is Spanish, according to the data. The percentage of Spanish-speaking residents increased from 14.8 percent to 15.9 percent. By comparison, 13 percent of residents nationwide speak Spanish.
There are now about 1.3 million residents who speak Spanish at home in New Jersey, which follows the growth of the state’s Hispanic and Latino population, up 2 percentage points to 19.3 percent. European and Indian languages such as German, Russian and Hindi rank third behind English and Spanish. The percentage of Asian and Pacific Island speakers increased slightly.
At the same time, those who speak another language are also getting better at English, the data shows. Those who speak English “very well” while speaking a different language at home increased 2.5 percentage points, while those who speak it less than “very well” — which includes those that do not speak English at all — decreased by the same amount.
There are also now 41 towns — many of them in Hudson, Bergen and Middlesex counties — where more than half of residents do not speak English at home.
The uptick in non-English speaking residents is tied to an increase of the foreign-born population. In the past 10 years, that population increased 1.2 percentage points, as compared to 0.4 percentage points nationwide, according to the Census data.
Compared to New Jersey’s overall population, the numbers suggest that immigrants are still a big factor in the state’s growth.
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