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An image of a cover of the report Language Use in the United States by the Census Bureau.Minnesota has proportionally fewer immigrants compared to the nation as a whole, but we have long been a state shaped by immigration. In 2020, about eight percent of Minnesotans were foreign-born, but that percentage was as high as 37 percent in the late 1800s.

While English is the most common language spoken at home in the United States, many different languages are spoken in homes across the country.  Census takers with the U.S. Census Bureau began asking about languages spoken at home in 1890 and have continued collecting this information to this day.  A report issued in August, Language Use in the United States, contains the latest numbers from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey Reports.  While the Census report doesn’t break down state data in great detail, it does note that 12.3% of Minnesotans age 5 years and over speak a language other than English at home. 

According to the Census Bureau, “the primary purpose of collecting language data is to measure the proportion of the U.S. population that may need help in understanding English” so government agencies and other organizations can use the information to determine language assistance needed.

A recent report from the Minnesota Department of Education is designed to help educators and policymakers respond to the needs of Minnesota students.  While the top languages spoken at home nationally after English are Spanish, Chinese, and French—the outlook in Minnesota is different.  English Learner Education in Minnesota: 2020-21 Report reports that the top languages spoken at home after English are Spanish, Somali, and Hmong, reflecting immigrant groups that have settled in Minnesota in recent years.

Contact us with questions, for research assistance, or to borrow these reports or any of the materials on this month's list: or 651-296-8338.