Much to do has been made about whether sign language interpreters should consider spoken language interpreters partners in the same profession or similarly-titled language workers with vastly different everyday experience.
The “separate-but-equal” argument has been promoted by people on both side of the isle, from Dennis Cokely to the AIIC (click here to read more about the AIIC). I believe there is good reason to view interpreting as a whole profession regardless of some important differences. I’ll come back to this question in a later post. But for now, I’m back to the Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
Basically, I want to know what percent of interpreters nationwide and by state are sign language interpreters. There are two pieces of data. (1) RID membership, which I’m using as a proxy for working interpreters even though I know this is far from true. (2) The total people who identified as a 27-3091, the BLS code for an interpreter or translator. If you look at the numbers below, you can tell just how wonky this approach is. Nationwide, RID members make up about one-third of all reported interpreters and/or translators. Yet in some states, there are more RID members than interpreters/translators!
Here are some plausible explanations for what’s going on. I hope that you will suggest more explanations for the data, and perhaps send better data if you have it. This is a community exercise. We should all know what’s going on in our profession, shouldn’t we?
- The BLS data is skewed because not everyone who works as an interpreter is filling out 27-3091 on their IRS paperwork. (That is where the BLS is getting their data, n’est pas?
- The RID membership numbers are not entirely working interpreters.
- The RID membership numbers represent only a fraction of working ASL interpreters (which fraction, then?)
- In many cases, interpreting is so part-time that it’s hard to get accurate data.
- Many interpreters aren’t claiming interpreting wages on their taxes.
|States||RID Members||Total Interpreters/Translators (BLS)||Percent of Total are RID members|
|District of Columbi||147||400||36.75%|