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Statistics and Data Related to Adult English Language Learners

Are you trying to find out the number of Latino women receiving welfare benefits who take ESL classes? Do you need to know how many adults are on waiting lists for ESL classes? How many immigrants want to become citizens?

If you are looking for facts and figures such as these, CAELA has compiled a list of sites that provide data related to the field of adult ESL and the populations that it serves. While it can be challenging to find comprehensive, exact statistics on adult ESL programs and populations, these sites provide reliable and relevant information.

Benchmarking Adult Literacy in America: An International Comparative Study
Results of studies such as the National Adult Literacy Survey (NALS) and the International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS), as well as current interests in literacy issues, come together in this publication. It offers 10 indicators that can be used to compare literacy proficiencies of populations of various countries, including the United States. While the report deals primarily with literacy of native populations in the countries examined, some mention of nonnative populations is made (e.g., on pages 22-23, an analysis of the literacy proficiency levels of second language foreign-born populations, age 16-65, is provided).

California's Committment to Adult English Language Learners: Caught Between Funding and Need
Written by Arturo Gonzalez and published in 2007 by the Public Policy Institute of California, "This report examines whether the funding formula for adult schools can meet the changing language needs of the state's immigrant population." (p. 4) The report includes chapters on research goals (e.g., "What is the policy background for the provision of ESL courses in California?", "How has the ESL target population changed throughout the state since 1980?" (p. 19)), on the policy context for adult education in California, on the English language proficiency of California immigrants, on enrollment in programs, and on policy implications. The report also includes appendices on data and methods and estimates and results of the study.

Children in Immigrant Families - The U.S. and 50 States: National Origins, Language, and Early Education
This research brief was published by Child Trends and the Center for Social and Demographic Analysis at University of Albany, SUNY in April 2007. This report looks children in immigrant families using new results from Census 2000.

Council for Advancement of Adult Literacy
The publications from this organization include several related to ESL including Adult ESL and the Community College. Passing the Torch: Strategies for Innovation in Community College ESL, and Pathways & Outcomes:Tracking ESL Student Performance.

Ethnologue: Section on Languages of the United States
Ethnologue, published by the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL), is one of the most comprehensive indexes of world languages currently available. This Web page from the current edition (2005) has information on the languages spoken in the United States, including numbers of speakers of each language (dates data were collected vary), geographic locations, alternate names, dialects, and sociolinguistic aspects as available. Information on languages used in other countries of the world is also available on the SIL site at

Fed Stats
The Fed Stats Web site provides a convenient place to search for statistics compiled by over 100 U.S. federal agencies. Searches can be conducted by topic, federal agency, or geographic region. Press releases from federal agencies can also be accessed from this site.

From 'There' to 'Here': Refugee Resettlement in Metropolitan America
This September 2006 report is part of the Living Cities Census Series of the Metropolitan Policy Program at The Brookings Institution. This report by Audrey Singer and Jill H. Wilson provides historical background about refugee resettlement as well as findings such as that the leading destinations for refugees has shifted from the more traditional gateways (e.g., New York, Los Angeles, Chicago) to other metropolitan areas such as Seattle, Atlanta, or Portland, Oregon. The paper includes figures, tables, and appendices the illustrate demographic change.

Goodling Institute for Research in Family Literacy
The mission of the Goodling Institute (housed at the Penn State University College of Education) is "to improve family literacy education through research and its application to practice and professional development. (from About us) In February 2008 the Goodling Institute produced Research Brief #1, Poverty, Residential Mobility, and Persistence across Urban and Rural Family Literacy Programs in Pennsylvania by Kai Schafft, Esther Prins, and Marcela Movit. A key finding of the study they conducted places residential mobility among the set of povery-related problems that "...pose challenges for learners to attend classes regularly and meet their educational goals. (p.1)

Immigration Statistics Materials, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

This section of the USCIS Web site provides access to a variety of immigration-related statistics and to reports based on these statistics. There is also a link to the online version of the Yearbook of Immigration Statistics.

Latino National Survey (LNS)

On December 7, 2006 The Division of United States Studies and the Latin American Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center, the Migration Policy Institute, and the Pew Hispanic Center presented Redefining America: Key Finding from the 2006 Latino National Survey. A video of the session as well as a PowerPoint presentation from the session and Latino National Survey: Weighted Demographic Tables, Nationally and by State are available on the Wilson Center Web site (above). The survey questions (English Survey and Spanish Survey and the executive summary as well as other information are available on the University of Washington Web site at

Lost in Translation
This policy brief, published November 2006 by the Center for an Urban Future and the Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy, provides information about the growth of immigrant population in New York State and challenges related to providing English language instruction for the growing population.

Migration Information Center
This Web-based resource for information on migration worldwide has a data center that tracks migration patterns, trends, and related statistics on a country-by-country basis. This center is part of the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), a nonprofit organization that studies the movement of people worldwide. The MPI Data Hub provides, "...access to the latest facts, statistics, and maps on international migration." ( This page includes a link to extensive information on US Immigration. In 2007 the National Center on Immigration Integration Policy of the Migration Policy Institute published a report to the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Measures of Change: The Demography and Literacy of Adolescent Learners by Jeanne Batalova, Michael Fix, and Julie Murray. In July 2007 MPI published a report, Adult English Instruction in the United States: Determining Need and Investing Widely by Margie McHugh, Julia Gelatt, and Michael Fix.

National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO)
In June 2006, the NALEO Educational Fund produced Waiting Times for Adult ESL Classes and the Impact on English Learners by Dr. James Thomas Tucker. This report describes a survey that was conducted to gather updated numbers and other information about adults waiting for English as a second language classes. ESL providers in twenty-two cities in sixteen states were survey. This report is available at A more recent version is entitled, The ESL Logjam Waiting Times for Adult ESL Classes and the Impact on English Learners (October 2006).

National Center for Education Statistics
The Center is the primary federal organization that collects and analyzes information and statistics on education in the U.S. and other countries, from K-12 to post-secondary and adult contexts. The Web site provides access to the data and reports that result from these activities.

  • English Literacy and Language Minorities in the United States This report, pulled from data obtained through the 1992 National Adult Literacy Survey, provides an in-depth look at adults in the United States who were either born in other countries or who were born in the U.S. but spoke a language other than English as children.
  • National Adult Literacy Survey
    National and state data from this 1992 survey of the nature and extent of literacy skills of adults in the U.S. are available on this section of the NCES site.
  • National Assessment of Adult Literacy
    This site provides information about the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy.
  • Participation of Adults in English as a Second Language Classes: 1994-95
    Published in 1997 but looking at findings from a 1994-95 survey, this report from NCES presents rates of participation in adult ESL classes and responses to questions on related issues such as barriers to participation and characteristics of participants.
  • Recent Participation in Formal Learning Among Working-Age Adults with Different Levels of Education
    This issue brief was published in January 2008. The brief, "...uses data from the 2001 and 2005 adult education surveys of the National Household Education Surveys Program (NHES) to examine the participation of adults in formal learning activities during the 12 months preceding the survey, focusing on the participation of adults who at the end of the survey had the lowest levels of education (no high school diploma, or a GED)." (

National Clearinghouse for for English Acquisition (NCELA) and Language Instruction Educational Programs FAQs
Many of the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and their answers on this page of the (former) National Center for Bilingual Education's (NCBE) Web site focus on statistical information about English language learner populations in the U.S. While NCBE's focus tends to be K-12, there are resources and statistics discussed that may be of interest to educators working with adults and out-of-school youth. The NCELA Web site provides many links to information about English language acquisition at

National Immigration Forum
The reports and articles on the Forum's Web site present information and statistics on a variety of topics related to immigrants and immigration, including refugees and asylees, immigrants and the economy, employment-related and family immigration, and profiles of today's newcomers.

New Immigrant Settlements in Rural America: Problems, Prospects, and Policies

This report, written in 2006 by Lief Jensen, is one of a series of Reports on Rural America produced by the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire. "This report examines recent immigrants in rural and small town America, through analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau" (Executive summary). The document includes a brief history of the of U.S immigration, region by region analysis of where immigrants are currently moving and why, a variety of demographic information, and suggestions for future research and policy directions.

Numbers and Needs
Numbers and Needs is a newsletter that both reports on and discusses the implications of a variety of statistics related to ethnic and linguistic minority populations in the United States. While the focus tends to be K-12 education issues, there are resources and information related to post-secondary and adult groups as well. The Web site provides access to issues from the years 1998 and 1999.

Pew Hispanic Center
The Pew Hispanic Center is a nonpartisan research organization. The homepage of the Web site states that the organization's mission is to "improve understanding of the U.S. Hispanic population and to Latinos' growing impact on the entire nation." The Center conducts research on many topics including demography, education, labor, and immigration. Some of the center's recent papers are:


ProLiteracy Worldwide 2005-2006 Statistical Report
This report provides statistical data and other information on ProLiteracy Worldwide program activities (including adult ESL instruction) in the year 2005-2006. Data on students and volunteers is provided. Statistics from other years are also available on this site.

State Education Agencies Web sites
If you are looking for information on educational activities, standards, state plans, learner populations, etc. in specific states in the U.S., this page provides links to the Web sites of state-level education agencies. Some of the pages have a K-12 focus or may place adult education under different departmental titles, so it is often easier to use search functions or site maps to find specific information targeting adult education.

Supporting English language Acquisition: Opportunities for Foundations
to Strengthen the Social and Economic Well-being of Immigrant Families
This report was written by published by the Annie E. Casey Foundation in collaboration with Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees. The report includes a demographic portrait of limited English proficient immigrants and their children, as well as chapters on English language proficiency's relationship to improved employability and economic success as well as a strategy for strengthening immigrant families.

United States Census Bureau
This Web site provides statistical data and reports based not only on the 2000 Census, but also on the ongoing work of the Bureau. Information on population numbers and profiles, population projections, economics and business, and U.S. state and county facts can be accessed here. From the American Fact Finder page, one can search Census 2000 data for information about language use and English-speaking ability. Also, more recent data-- through 2007--is available on the American Fact Finder and other portions of the Census Web site.

Also of interest:


United States Department of Education, Offive of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE)

  • Adult Education and Family Literacy Act, Program Year 2004-2005, Report to Congress on State Performance (2007), This report gives information and statistics from one recent progam year related to the state-adminstered grant program that was authroized by the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (AEFLA), enacted as Title II of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) of 1998.
  • Adult Education and Family Literacy Act, Program Year 2003-2004, Report to Congress on State Performance (2006), This report gives information and statistics from one recent progam year related to the state-adminstered grant program that was authroized by the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (AEFLA), enacted as Title II of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) of 1998.
  • Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE), U.S. Department of Education Enrollment and Participation in the State-Administered Adult Education Program This page on OVAE's Web site lists statistics on federally funded adult education programs at the state and national levels. State grant allotments, personnel, and enrollment (by ethnicity, age, gender, and instructional program type) figures are offered.


Urban Institute's Research Reports on Immigration
These reports, available online in full-text, provide data and information on immigrants and topics such as public benefits, employment, children and families, and employment. One of these studies is The Integration of Immigrant Families in the United States (2001) by Michael Fix, Wendy Zimmerman, and Jeffrey S. Passel

Worldwide Refugee Information
On this site, the U.S. Committee on Refugees provides its best judgements on statistics on refugees and displaced persons worldwide.