The Geography of Linguistically Diverse Counties in the United States

Authors: Steven Driever*, University of Missouri - Kansas City, Nazgol Bagheri, University of Texas at San Antonio
Topics: Cultural Geography, United States, Social Geography
Keywords: Multilingualism, minority (heritage) languages, United States, counties, linguistic diversity, American Community Survey
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 1:20 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Galvez, , Marriott, 5th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


As multilingualism in a community of speakers is known to enrich culture in countless ways, the authors have sought to identify systematically such linguistically diverse places throughout the United States. Using American Community Survey (ACS) estimates, we map and investigate in this paper only those counties where an array of non-English languages are spoken by 10% or more of people at home and almost always no single minority (heritage) language reaches that threshold. These language-rich counties have sizable foreign-born populations speaking an array of languages. We discuss four factors that explain the locations of these linguistically diverse counties: immigrant suburbanization in major metropolitan areas, immigrant dispersal to the Midwest and the South, globalizing of large U.S. military bases and major American universities and their host communities, and heritage-language shift away from a dominant minority language in favor of English. Two of these factors – immigrant suburbanization and immigrant dispersal beyond the Northeast melting pot – act jointly to produce linguistic diversification in metropolitan counties. Using ACS 2009-2013 estimates, we present a multiple linear regression equation that predicts accurately the level of linguistic diversity in metropolitan counties for different regions of the United States. In more rural counties we can observe the linguistic effects of a globalizing institution or we can trace the heritage language shift away from an old, established language no longer reinforced by recent immigrants speaking that tongue.

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