The Value Of English Proficiency To The United States Economy
What is the cost to the United States economy attributable to lack of basic English skills? The nation’s English learner population continues to grow dramatically. According to the 2010 Census, there are currently just over 25 million English learners living in the United States, including more than 5.3 million learners currently attending elementary and secondary schools.
To be certain, English learners are a population accustomed to confronting challenges. Dropout rates are just one of the many important educational indicators where their struggles far surpass other population groups. The economic obstacles are formidable as well: nearly 6 out of 10 English learners qualify for federal Free or Reduced Lunch programs.
This study specifically examines wage penalties facing the 16.5 million Spanish-speaking English learners, who research indicates are hit hardest due to poor English skills. Using wage penalty projections, data from the 2010 American Community Survey, and estimates of high school dropouts attributable to inadequate English skills, it is concluded that $37.7 billion in annual earnings are missed by Spanish speaking English learners each year. This means that adult, Spanish-speaking English learners lost approximately $3,000 per year in earnings, on average, as a direct result of inadequate English skills.