Salvadorans in this statistical profile are people who self-identified as Hispanics of Salvadoran origin; this means either they themselves are Salvadoran immigrants or they trace their family ancestry to El Salvador.
Salvadorans are the fourth-largest population of Hispanic origin living in the United States, accounting for 3.7% of the U.S. Hispanic population in 2013. Since 1990, the Salvadoran-origin population has more than tripled, growing from 563,000 to 2 million over that period. At the same time, the foreign-born population of Salvadoran origin living in the U.S. grew 156%, up from 459,000 in 1990 to 1.2 million in 2013. In comparison, Mexicans, the nation’s largest Hispanic origin group, constituted 34.6 million, or 64.1%, of the Hispanic population in 2013.1
This statistical profile compares the demographic, income and economic characteristics of the Salvadoran population with the characteristics of all Hispanics and the U.S. population overall, and includes public opinion data of Salvadoran and Hispanic adults. It is based on Pew Research Center tabulations of the 2013 American Community Survey and Pew Research Center’s 2013 National Survey of Latinos. Key facts include:
- Immigration status. Roughly six-in-ten Salvadorans (59%) in the United States are foreign born, compared with 35% of Hispanics and 13% of the U.S. population overall. About four-in-ten immigrants from El Salvador (42%) have been in the U.S. for over 20 years. About three-in-ten Salvadoran immigrants (31%) are U.S. citizens.
- English proficiency and speaking Spanish at home. According to the ACS, half of Salvadorans speak English proficiently.2 The other half of Salvadorans ages 5 and older report speaking English less than very well, compared with 32% of all Hispanics. Overall, 89% of Salvadorans speak Spanish at home, higher than the share (73%) of all Hispanics ages 5 and older who speak Spanish at home.
- Bilingualism and language dominance. According to the 2013 Pew Research Center survey, only 3% of Salvadoran adults are English-dominant, much lower than the share of Hispanics overall (25%).3 About six-in-ten (63%) Salvadoran adults are Spanish-dominant, and roughly one-third (35%) are bilingual. The share of Salvadoran adults who are Spanish-dominant is higher than the overall Hispanic population (38%), and the share of bilingual speakers is about equal to the overall Hispanic population (36%).
- Age. Salvadorans are younger than the U.S. population but older than Hispanics overall. The median age of Salvadorans is 30; the median ages of the U.S. population and all Hispanics are 37 and 28, respectively. Among Salvadorans, the median age of immigrants is 39 years, while it’s 12 years among the U.S. born.
- Marital status. Salvadorans ages 18 and older are married at an equal rate to Hispanics overall (46% of each) but are less likely to be married than the U.S. population overall (50%). Among Salvadorans ages 18 and older, the foreign born are more likely to be married than U.S.-born Salvadorans—52% vs. 23%.
- Fertility. Fewer than one-in-ten (8%) Salvadoran women ages 15 to 44 gave birth in the 12 months prior to this survey. That was similar to the rate for all Hispanic women (7%) and slightly higher than the overall rate for U.S. women (6%). Some 44% of Salvadoran women ages 15 to 44 who gave birth in the 12 months prior to the survey were unmarried. That was similar to the 45% rate for all Hispanic women and greater than the 38% overall rate for U.S. women.
- Regional dispersion. Salvadorans are concentrated in the South (42%) and in the West (39%), mostly in California (34%).
- Educational attainment. Salvadorans have lower levels of education than the U.S. Hispanic population and the U.S. population overall. Some 8% of Salvadorans ages 25 and older—compared with 14% of all U.S. Hispanics and 30% among the entire U.S. population—have obtained at least a bachelor’s degree. Among Salvadorans ages 25 and older, the U.S. born are more likely to have earned a bachelor’s degree or more than foreign-born Salvadorans—22% vs. 7%.
- Income. The median annual personal earnings for Salvadorans ages 16 and older was $20,800 in the year prior to the survey—slightly lower than the median earnings for all U.S. Hispanics ($21,900) and lower than the median earnings for the U.S. population ($30,000).
- Poverty status. The share of Salvadorans who live in poverty, 20%, is higher than the rate for the general U.S. population (16%) but lower than the rate for Hispanics overall (25%).
- Health insurance. Some 37% of Salvadorans do not have health insurance, compared with 29% of all Hispanics and 15% of the general U.S. population. Some 14% of Salvadorans younger than 18 are uninsured. (These data reflect insurance rates prior to the implementation of the individual insurance mandate of the Affordable Care Act.)
- Homeownership. The rate of Salvadoran homeownership (39%) is lower than the rate for all Hispanics (45%) and the U.S. population (64%) as a whole
- “Salvadoran” is the identity term used most often. When asked in a 2o13 Pew Research Center survey what term they use to describe themselves most often, about half of Salvadoran adults (49%) say they most often use term “Salvadoran.” Some 12% say they describe themselves most often as “American.” About one-third (36%) most often use the pan-ethnic terms of “Hispanic” or “Latino” to describe their identity. By comparison, 54% of all U.S. Hispanics say they prefer their ancestor’s Hispanic origin term to describe their identity, 23% say they describe themselves most often as “American” and two-in-ten use the pan-ethnic terms of “Hispanic” or “Latino” to describe their identity.
- Preference for Hispanic or Latino. In regard to the pan-ethnic terms of “Hispanic” or “Latino,” about half of Salvadoran adults (49%) have no preference for either term. Among those who have a preference, more prefer the term “Hispanic” (28% of all Salvadorans), while 22% prefer the term “Latino.” By comparison, half of all Hispanic adults have no preference for either term, and among those who do have a preference, Hispanic is favored over Latino 2-to-1.
- Typical American or not. When asked in the 2o13 Pew Research survey whether they thought of themselves as a typical American or very different from a typical American, Salvadorans are more likely to see themselves as “very different from a typical American” (51%) compared with about one-third of Salvadoran adults (35%) who see themselves as “a typical American.” By comparison, Hispanic adults overall are more likely to think of themselves as typical Americans (49%) than very different from a typical American (44%).
- Religious affiliation. A 2013 Pew Research Center survey of Hispanic adults finds that about four-in-ten Salvadorans (42%) identify themselves as Catholic. Some 37% of Salvadorans are Protestant, and among all Salvadorans, only 5% are mainline Protestants and 32% are evangelical Protestants. Some 15% of Salvadoran adults are religiously unaffiliated. In contrast, among all Hispanics, 55% identify as Catholic, 22% identify as Protestant, and about two-in-ten (18%) are unaffiliated.
About the Data
This statistical profile of Hispanics of Salvadoran origin is based on the Census Bureau’s 2013 American Community Survey (ACS) and a nationally representative Pew Research Center survey of 5,103 Hispanic adults conducted May 24-July 28, 2013. The survey was conducted in both English and Spanish on cellular as well as landline telephones and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.1 percentage points. For a complete methodology, see: https://www.pewresearch.org/religion/2014/05/07/appendix-a-survey-methodology-2/
Like any survey, estimates from the ACS are subject to sampling error and (potentially) measurement error. Information on the ACS sampling strategy and associated error is available at http://www.census.gov/acs/www/methodology/methodology_main/. An example of measurement error is that citizenship rates for the foreign born are estimated to be overstated in the decennial census and other official surveys, such as the ACS (see Jeffrey S. Passel. 2007. “Growing Share of Immigrants Choosing Naturalization.” Washington, D.C.: Pew Research Center, March). Finally, estimates from the ACS may differ from the decennial census or other Census Bureau surveys due to differences in methodology and data collection procedures (see, for example, http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/laborfor/laborfactsheet092209.html and http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/about/datasources/factsheet.html).