Who Doesn't Value English? Debunking Myths About Mexican Immigrants’ Attitudes Toward the English Language*


  • The data used in this publication were collected with funding provided by the RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service and the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Texas at Austin. Neither the collector of these data nor any of the funding entities bears any responsibility for the analyses and interpretations presented here. The authors would also like to acknowledge the research assistance of Dr. Jill Strube and the support of the Irma Rangel Public Policy Institute at the University of Texas at Austin.

Direct correspondence to Julie A. Dowling, Department of Latina/Latino Studies, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 510 E. Chalmers, Champaign, IL 61820 <dowlingj@illinois.edu>.



In recent years, immigration has become a central focus of political scrutiny. Much of the negativity directed toward the largely Mexican immigrant population asserts that they do not wish to learn English and acclimate to the dominant culture of the United States. Very little research, however, has explored how Mexican immigrants or Mexican Americans assess the value of English proficiency.


Utilizing the Survey of Texas Adults, we examine attitudes regarding the importance of English. We explore the attitudes of Mexican-origin persons compared to other racial/ethnic groups, as well as explore within-group differences based on citizenship, nativity, and language use.


Our findings reveal the high importance that Spanish speakers, as well as many non-U.S. citizen Mexican immigrants, place on English proficiency. Furthermore, the results indicate that Spanish speakers are actually most likely to stress the importance of English.


Our research contradicts accounts of the largely Spanish-speaking Mexican immigrant population as not valuing the English language. In so doing, our work contributes to larger scholarly efforts to better understand immigrants in general and Mexican immigrants in particular.