Speak English and Language Code

From the IPUMS 2011 and 2012 data, the data for variables SPEAKS ENGLISH and LANGUAGE are derived from the following questions (below). How is that data indicated for each question (14a, 14b, 14c). For example, if someone answers NO in 14a, does that indicate that they are indicated as speaks english only? Also, a NO answer takes them to directly then to 15a, so 14c is skipped. Does that mean 14c is only for those who indicate YES for speaking language other than English at home. Also in the code section 0=N/A or blank. What does N/A mean?

14.a) Does this person speak a language other than English at home?
No -> SKIP to question 15a
14 b) What is this language?______________________________
For example: Korean, Italian, Spanish, Vietnamese

14 c) How well does this person speak English?
Very well
Not well
Not at all

Code Label 2012
acs 2011
0 N/A or blank 169,087 172,922
1 Does not speak English 33,442 34,406
2 Yes, speaks English… · ·
3 Yes, speaks only English 2,399,856 2,405,336
4 Yes, speaks very well 324,073 312,647
5 Yes, speaks well 109,318 108,006
6 Yes, but not well 77,254 78,700
7 Unknown · ·
8 Illegible · ·


Code Label 2012
acs 2011
0000 N/A or blank 169,087 172,922
0100 English 2,399,856 2,405,336
0110 Jamaican Creole 199 221
0120 Krio, Pidgin Krio 97 ·
0130 Hawaiian Pidgin

The instructions in the ACS Instruction Guide for 2011 state the following:

14a. Mark the “Yes” box if the person sometimes or always speaks a language other than English at home. Mark the “No” box if the person speaks only English, or if a non-English language is spoken only at school or is limited to a few expressions or slang.

14b. If this person speaks more than one non-English language and cannot determine which is spoken more often, report the one the person first learned to speak.

The ACS asks specifically about language spoken at home, so it doesn’t fit exactly with the description of SPEAKENG. You can read more about this on the comparability page for SPEAKENG. Keep in mind that some respondents will have mis-understood the question or didn’t read the instruction guide, so there will be some reporting error in these variables. Also note that non-English languages trump English in LANGUAGE - anyone who speaks a non-English language at home will have that language listed, even if they also speak English at home.

To answer your questions:

  • Someone who answers NO to 14 would have LANGUAGE = 1 and SPEAKENG = 3. For those who answer YES to 14a, the answers to LANGUAGE and SPEAKENG will be based on the answers to 14b and 14c. Note that people who answered YES to 14a and indicated a Creole language (LANGUAGED in 0100-0170) for 14b, they will also have LANGUAGE = 1, even though SPEAKENG is not = 3.

  • For both LANGUAGE and SPEAKENG, the universe only includes people age 6 and older. So ages 0-5 will have a value of 0 (N/A).