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Non-English languages in the USA

Last month, Ben Blatt posted a series of maps on Slate, showing the most commonly-spoken language other than English in each state (and more besides). Inspired by those maps, below I show the equivalent map at the census tract level, which is a finer level of detail than counties. You may have to wait 15 seconds or so for Google to process the data and display it for you. The numbers come from the 2000 Census, so it's a little bit out of date, but it's the most recent dataset that I could find that has this much detail.

Click on any "tract" to bring up its county, the most commonly-spoken non-English language, the percentage of people speaking that language, and the population (the latter only counting those aged 5 years and over). The tract code is a string of digits and will likely only be of interest to people wanting to check the original data. (See also the equivalent map excluding Spanish.)

Spanish or Spanish Creole
French (incl. Patois, Cajun)
Other Native North American
Other West Germanic
Portuguese or Portuguese Creole
French Creole
Miao, Hmong
Other Slavic
African languages
Other and unspecified
Other Indo-European

It is a little unfortunate that many languages are lumped together in large categories. The Native American languages are divided into Navajo and "Other"; all African languages are called "African languages", and so on. Still there is plenty to see in the map – languages that are listed individually plus Chinese account for over 97% of all the tracts, and about 87% of the tracts where Spanish isn't the most spoken non-English language.

The legend at right shows the most commonly seen languages or language categories in the map, which together account for 98% of all the tracts with at least one speaker of a non-English language. The opacity of the shading is related to the percentage of people in the tract who speak the language in question, with solid colour being used for anything over 50%.

The data is available from the wonderful National Historical Geographic Information System, which is run out of the Minnesota Population Center at the University of Minnesota. I used Table NPCT010C from dataset 2000_SF3a, along with the corresponding shapefile for the tracts.

Posted 2014-06-01.

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