Ethnic and Linguistic Diversity in Ohio

Health Ohio Diversity

We are seeing heightened awareness of, and interest in, health disparities experienced by our Buckeye state denizens. What groups are of interest in these conversations? Certainly, income and poverty-threholds matter, as do race and ethnicities. But linguistic and other differences that are the lived experiences of the foreign-born are often overlooked. As such, in this post I simply tabulate and visualize a few Census-based indicators of these disparities. The analyses are simple by design, intended merely to shine a spotlight on specific patterns.

Ani Ruhil true

The motivating question(s) for this post are all about the diversity of the foreign-born population in Ohio. What countries do most Ohioans come from? How are they distributed across Ohio? What language is spoken at home, in addition to or in lieu of, English? The data source I chose to tap was the 2015-2019 American Community Survey. We start with where our foreign-born come from. Photo by Kerwin Elias on Unsplash

The 2015-2019 ACS lists 135 unique countries of birth for the 535,021 foreign-born who call Ohio their home. The Asian continent sends the most foreign-born (230,289 or 43.1% of the total foreign-born), followed by The Americas (119,729 or 22.4%), Europe (105,569 or 19.7%), Africa (76,615 or 14.3%), and then Oceania (2819 or 0.5%).

The 20 countries that lead the list of foreign-born Ohioans are shown below.

How are the foreign-born scattered across our landscape? We could try and look at the possible answers to this question by focusing on Census tracts, places, counties or higher-level geographies. I default to the counties because this allows us to get a statewide perspective without getting too much into the weeds. The interactive map drawn below flags the total size of the foreign-born population in each county. Quite clearly, Franklin leads with 140,504 persons, followed by Cuyahoga, Hamilton, Summit, Montgomery, and the rest of counties. The key take-away here is that every county has some foreign-born Ohioans. The table that follows the map allows you to cycle through the 88 counties to see their foreign-born estimates.

This naturally begs the question of linguistic diversity in these households. Again, 2015-2019 ACS data help shed some light on a very specific question, namely, among those 5 years old or older who do not speak only English, the language spoken at home by ability to speak English. Some 240,968 (35.5%) of Ohioans 5 years old or older who do not speak only English at home speak English less than very well … this is one in every three! Further, we have data on 42 languages spoken in these homes.

Here are the granular data at the level of each language spoken at home, along with the ability to speak English (‘Very Well’ or ‘Less than Very Well’) .

If we look at how many Ohioans speak languages other than English at home, and how this custom varies by age-group, what is quite obvious is that a large number of our citizens (550,880 in particular) who are 18-64 years old speak languages other than English at home. In fact, a sum total of 788,432 (7.2%) Ohioans five years old or older speak a language other than English at home.

What about poverty and linguistic diversity? One common misconception is that those not in poverty tend to be more fluent in English and use it as their everyday language, even at home. Turns out that is far from the case in our state, with 621,967 Ohioans five years old or older and with incomes at or above the poverty level speaking a language other than English at home. This group dwarfs the 147,137 Ohioans below poverty level who do the same!

If we wanted to dig deeper into languages spoken other than English, what languages are spoken at home by Ohioans who are five years old or older and speak English ‘less than very well’?

What stands out for me? Several things, but the most noteworthy would be the fact that languages other than English are spoken at home by far more Ohioans at or above than by Ohioans below the poverty line, and that a large number of Ohioans in the 18-64 age-group – the working years – also rely primarily on languages other than English at home. What warms my heart though is the fact that Ohio has become home to immigrants from 135 countries.


Text and figures are licensed under Creative Commons Attribution CC BY-SA 4.0. The figures that have been reused from other sources don't fall under this license and can be recognized by a note in their caption: "Figure from ...".


For attribution, please cite this work as

Ruhil (2022, Feb. 2). From an Attican Hollow: Ethnic and Linguistic Diversity in Ohio. Retrieved from

BibTeX citation

  author = {Ruhil, Ani},
  title = {From an Attican Hollow: Ethnic and Linguistic Diversity in Ohio},
  url = {},
  year = {2022}