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Spanish declines and English is on the rise among U.S. Latinos

A declining share of Latinos in the U.S. are speaking Spanish and a growing share only speaks English at home, according to findings in a study released Wednesday by the Pew Research Center.

In the last 14 years, English proficiency among U.S. Latinos rose — largely fueled by Latino youth born in this country, according to an analysis of 2014 Census Bureau data by the center.

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Nearly half of these U.S.-born youth are younger than 18 and 88% speak only English at home or speak English very well, according to the 2014 data. That's up from 73% in 2000.

Among millennial Latinos — ages 18 to 33 — the share who speak only English at home or say they speak English very well rose from 59% to 76% during the same time.

The rise in English used by young Latinos is largely due to shifting demographics, said Mark Hugo Lopez, director of Hispanic research at the center.

"We often tend to think of immigrants being the main driver of the Hispanic population, but it's actually U.S.-born Hispanics who are drivers of the Hispanic population," he said.

The number of newly arrived immigrants from Latin America has been in decline for a decade.

The study's findings are no surprise to onlookers who follow the history of immigration integration in the U.S.

Jody Agius Vallejo, an associate professor of sociology at USC who studies immigrant integration, said the data bear out a long-standing phenomenon.

"The typical trend is that the first [generation] prefers to speak Spanish, the second generation is bilingual, and the third generation is generally monolingual," she said.

The data run counter to the much-perpetuated narrative that Latinos don't want to speak English and are not assimilating, she said.

"It is simply not true," Vallejo said. "What most people don't understand is that many Spanish speakers in the U.S. are also bilingual. So when you hear someone speaking Spanish that doesn't mean that they don't speak English."

Follow me @theCindyCarcamo for immigration news.

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