Poor English skills cost adults $3,000 a year

The 16.5 million Spanish-speaking adults who aren’t proficient in English forego $37.7 billion a year in earnings, estimates the Lexington Institute. That’s about $3,000 a year in earnings per worker.

Up to 59 percent of California’s English Learners — students who don’t test proficient in English — have been enrolled in U.S. schools for six years or more, according to Californians Together. California is now focusing on “long-term English Learners.”

About Joanne


  1. My DH grew up in a city with many immigrants who spoke no English when they arrived (mostly from Italy, eastern Europe and the Baltic) and who rarely had graduated from HS. Even though they didn’t speak English at home, kids learned it from neighborhood kids and at school, but without any sort of assistance (in either public or Catholic schools). Various ethnic groups helped adults learn it. One of the differences from today’s situation, is that those immigrants arrived here with the specific intention of becoming Americans and learning the language, traditions and history was part of that. The ethnic organizations (including churches) kept old traditions alive, at least for the older generations.

  2. If a child does not test proficient in English after several years of instruction in it and of living in an English-speaking country, it may be that he is not that smart. Educators do not want to contemplate that reason for long-term ELL status of many Hispanic immigrant children.

    • Motivation may also be in play. Also, in many communities, Spanish is the primary language, so kids don’t learn – or need- English on the playground, the grocery store, the barber etc. Even TV is available in Spanish.

    • I am an ELL teacher, and in my experience, the kids come in four versions. The first group are the kids who have just arrived from Latin America, and are motivated to be successful. They quickly move through the program and learn English. The second group are the kids who have just arrived from Latin America and aren’t motivated. These kids make little effort and just hang out and school to avoid the hassle until they turn 18. The third group are kids from the rest of the world and exchange students. These kids are basically ignored and allowed to sink or swim. The last group are kids who were born here in the U.S., entered American schools in Elementary and have been in ELL ever since. Some are special ed, some are unmotivated. ( I have one who only speaks English, but the parents marked Spanish spoken in the home when they enrolled him)