"From 1980 to 2009, the African-born population in United States grew from just under 200,000 to almost 1.5 million. Today, Africans make up a small (3.9 percent) but growing share of the country's 38.5 million immigrants. ... Over one-third of all African immigrants resided in New York, California, Texas, and Maryland." - Migration Information Source
A new report from the Migration Policy Institute's Migration Information Source, highlights from which are excerpted in this AfricaFocus Bulletin, summarizes the most recent statistical data available on African immigrants in the United States. The full report, with tables, sources, and much additional data is available at http://www.migrationinformation.org / direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/3b56mxe
Another AfricaFocus Bulletin, released today and available on the web at http://www.africafocus.org/docs11/mig1108b.php, contains excerpts from a report from the Economic Policy Institute on wages of black immigrants, noting their relative wage disadvantage with respect to U.S.-born blacks as well as U.S.-born non-Hispanic whites, within groups with similar educational and other demographic characteristics.
For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on migration issues, see http://www.africafocus.org/migrexp.php
- Editor's Note
African Immigrants in the United States
By Kristen McCabe Migration Policy Institute
July 21, 2011
While the trans-Atlantic slave trade brought large numbers of Africans to the United States as forced migrants from the 16th to the 19th centuries, significant voluntary migration from Africa to the United States did not begin in earnest until the 1980s. From 1980 to 2009, the Africanborn population in United States grew from just under 200,000 to almost 1.5 million. Today, Africans make up a small (3.9 percent) but growing share of the country's 38.5 million immigrants.
In 2009, almost two-thirds of African immigrants were from Eastern and Western Africa, but no individually reported country accounted for more than 14.1 percent of the foreign born from the Africa region. The top countries of origin for the African born were Nigeria, Ethiopia, Egypt, Ghana, and Kenya.
Classes of admission for African immigrants who gained lawful permanent residence in 2010 were also diverse, with 48 percent having done so through family relationships, 24 percent through the diversity visa program, 22 percent as refugees and asylees, 5 percent through employment, and the rest through other means.
Compared to the foreign born overall, African immigrants reported higher levels of English proficiency and educational attainment in 2009, and were more likely to be of working age and to participate in the labor force. Yet African immigrants were also more likely to be recent arrivals to the United States and to live in households with an annual income below the poverty line. Overall, striking differences are evident across African origin countries, with some refugee-origin countries appearing as outliers in certain measures of immigrant integration.
This Spotlight focuses on African immigrants residing in the United States, and examines the population's size, geographic distribution, admission categories, legal status, and demographic and socioeconomic characteristics. The data used are the most recent detailed data available and come from the US Census Bureau's 2009 American Community Survey (ACS), the 2000 Decennial Census (as well as earlier censuses), and the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Immigration Statistics (OIS).
The US Census Bureau defines the foreign born as individuals who had no US citizenship at birth. The foreign-born population includes naturalized citizens, lawful permanent residents, refugees, asylees, legal nonimmigrants (including those on student, work, or certain other types of temporary visas), and persons residing in the country without authorization.
The terms "foreign born" and "immigrant" are used interchangeably.
Size and Geographic Distribution
- In 2009, about 1.5 million African immigrants resided in the United States.
- African immigrants made up 3.9 percent of all immigrants in 2009.
- Nearly two-thirds of African immigrants were from Eastern or Western Africa in 2009.
- The top countries of origin for African immigrants were Nigeria, Ethiopia, Egypt, Ghana, and Kenya.
- Over one-third of all African immigrants resided in New York, California, Texas, and Maryland.
- Almost one-quarter of the African-born population lived in the metropolitan areas of New York-Northern New JerseyLong Island, NY-NJ-PA and Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV.
- About one in five immigrants in the Minneapolis-St. PaulBloomington, MN-WI metropolitan area was born in Africa.
- There were 3.5 million self-identified members of the African diaspora residing in the United States in 2009.
Demographic and Socioeconomic Overview
- Almost half of the African foreign born in the United States have arrived since 2000.
- The foreign born from Africa were less likely to be age 65 or older than the native born and the foreign born overall.
- African immigrant men outnumbered women in 2009.
- More than seven out of ten African immigrants spoke only English or spoke English "very well."
- Nearly three-quarters of African immigrants reported their race as "Black."
- African-born adults were more likely than the native born to have bachelor's degree or higher level of education.
- African immigrants of both genders were more likely to participate in the civilian labor force than were foreignborn men and women overall.
- More than 30 percent of employed African-born men worked in service occupations and in construction, extraction, and transportation.
- The African born were more likely to live in poverty in 2009 than were the native born and the foreign born overall.
- Roughly 714,000 children resided with least one Africanborn parent in 2009.
Size and Geographic Distribution
In 2009, about 1.5 million African immigrants resided in the United States.
The number of African immigrants in the United States has increased more than 40-fold over the past 50 years, growing from 35,355 in 1960 to almost 1.5 million in 2009.
This growth has been driven in large part by increasing numbers of immigrants from Eastern Africa and Western Africa, who made up almost two-thirds of the entire African immigrant population. Although pre-1980 estimates of these two populations are not available, the numeric growth of the Western African (which grew by 492,030) and Eastern African (397,262) immigrant populations from 1980 to 2009 each outweighed that of African populations from any other individually reported region.
African immigrants made up 3.9 percent of all immigrants in 2009.
The foreign born from Africa accounted for 3.9 percent of the country's 38.5 million immigrants in 2009.
Although African immigrants account for a relatively small percent of the total foreign born, the share of Africanborn immigrants has increased consistently over the past 50 years. Though African immigrants represented only 0.4 percent of all foreign born in 1960, this share grew to 1.4 percent in 1980, to 1.8 percent in 1990, and to 2.8 percent in 2000 (see Table 1).
Nearly two-thirds of African immigrants were from Eastern or Western Africa in 2009.
In 2009, about two-thirds (64.7 percent, or 965,330) of African immigrants in the United States were born in Western Africa or Eastern Africa.
Western Africa was the leading region of birth for African immigrants with 542,032 individuals (or 36.3 percent of all African immigrants), followed by Eastern Africa (28.4 percent; 423,298), Northern Africa (17.7 percent; 264,536), Southern Africa (5.7 percent; 85,145), and Middle Africa (4.4 percent; 65,457). For the remaining African immigrants (7.5 percent; 112,317), information on the region of birth was not available.
The shares of African immigrants born in Western, Eastern, and Middle Africa have increased substantially since 1980, the first year data is available for these regions. Conversely, the share of the African born from Northern Africa has decreased each decade since 1960, and the share from Southern Africa has decreased each decade since 1990 (see Table 2).
The top countries of origin for African immigrants were Nigeria, Ethiopia, Egypt, Ghana, and Kenya.
In 2009, the top five countries of origin for the 1.5 million African immigrants in the United States were Nigeria (209,908, or 14.1 percent of all African immigrants), Ethiopia (148,221, or 9.9 percent), Egypt (138,194, or 9.3 percent), Ghana (108,647, or 7.3 percent), and Kenya (87,267, or 5.8 percent). No individually reported country accounted for more than 14.1 percent of the African immigrant population.
Other individually reported countries of birth for African immigrants included: South Africa (82,339, or 5.5 percent), Liberia (72,111, or 4.8), Morocco (58,283, or 3.9 percent), Sudan (35,821, or 2.4 percent), Cape Verde (32,885, or 2.2 percent), Sierra Leone (32,467, or 2.2 percent), Cameroon (30,726, or 2.1 percent), and Eritrea (23,840, or 1.6 percent).
Over one-third of all African immigrants resided in New York, California, Texas, and Maryland.
New York had the largest number of African immigrants in 2009 with 168,426 individuals, or 11.3 percent of the total African-born population, followed by California (143,214, or 9.6 percent), Texas (124,691, or 8.4 percent), and Maryland (117,315, or 7.9 percent). The African-born in these states collectively accounted for 37.1 percent of all African immigrants.
Other states with African immigrant populations greater than 60,000 in 2009 included New Jersey (79,420, or 5.3 percent), Massachusetts (76,832, or 5.1 percent), Georgia (75,692, or 5.1 percent), Virginia (69,941, or 4.7 percent), and Minnesota (63,982, or 4.3 percent).
There were 3.5 million self-identified members of the African diaspora residing in the United States in 2009.
Of the 3.5 million self-identified members of the African diaspora residing in the United States in 2009, 53.7 percent were US citizens at birth (either born in the United States or born abroad to at least one US-born parent) and 46.3 percent were foreign born.
While the vast majority (92.2 percent) of foreign-born members of the African diaspora were born in Africa, 3.8 percent reported a birthplace in the Caribbean and 1.5 percent reported a birthplace in Europe.
Note: There is no universally recognized definition of the term "diaspora." Most often, the term includes individuals who self-identify as having ancestral ties to a specific country of origin. To calculate the size of the African diaspora in the United States, we included all immigrants born in Africa (excluding individuals born in the Africa to at least one US-born parent) and all individuals who selected a US Census-designated African country, "African," "West African," or "Other Subsaharan Africa" (either alone or in combination with another option) as a response to the two ACS questions on ancestry.
Modes of Entry and Legal Status
From 2001 to 2010, African nationals accounted for 28.4 percent of refugee arrivals and 21.2 percent of persons granted asylum.
African nationals arriving in the United States as refugees between 2001 and 2010 accounted for 28.4 percent (149,755) of total refugee arrivals during this period. Refugee arrivals from Somalia alone during this time accounted for 11.3 percent of all refugee arrivals.
Between 2001 to 2010, the leading origin countries of African refugee arrivals were Somalia (59,840, or 40.0 percent of total African refugee arrivals), Liberia (23,948, or 16.0 percent), Sudan (18,869, or 12.6 percent), Ethiopia (11,400, or 7.6 percent), Burundi (9,869, or 6.6 percent), the Democratic Republic of Congo (7,900, or 5.3 percent), Eritrea 6,493, or 4.3 percent), and Sierra Leone (6,280, or 4.2 percent).
During the same period, African nationals accounted for 21.2 percent (58,232) of the 274,848 total individuals granted asylum. The leading countries of origin for African nationals granted asylum were Ethiopia (17.1 percent of total African asylum grants), Cameroon (10.5 percent), and Egypt (8.5 percent).
Nearly half of all immigrants who received green cards through the diversity visa lottery program in 2010 were born in Africa.
Established by the Immigration Act of 1990, the US Diversity Immigrant Visa program offers certain persons from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States the opportunity enter a "green card lottery" administered by the US Department of State. The African born accounted for 48.0 percent (or 23,903) of the 49,763 persons who obtained legal permanent residence through the program in 2010.
Although diversity immigrants make up only a small share of persons granted LPR status each year (4.8 percent in 2010), diversity immigrants from five African countries â€" Ethiopia (3,987), Egypt (3,447), Nigeria (2,937), Kenya (2,279), and Ghana (2,086) â€" collectively accounted for 14.5 percent of all Africans who obtained legal permanent residence in 2010.
Demographic and Socioeconomic Overview
Almost half of the African foreign born in the United States have arrived since 2000.
As of 2009, 47.7 percent of the 1.5 million African immigrants in the United States entered the country in 2000 or later, and 28.8 percent entered between 1990 and 1999. Thus, more than three-quarters of the African born arrived in the United States in the last two decades. In terms of earlier arrivals, 13.7 percent of African-born immigrants came to the United States between 1980 and 1989, 6.5 percent between 1970 and 1979, and just 3.2 percent prior to 1970.
In fact, African immigrants are significantly more likely than immigrants overall to be recent arrivals: 31.6 percent of the 38.5 million foreign born entered the United States in 2000 or later, 27.9 percent entered between 1990 and 1999, and 19.6 percent entered between 1980 and 1989. Eleven percent of the overall foreign-born population entered between 1970 and 1979, and 9.9 percent prior to 1970.
Among the African born, some origin groups are more established than others. For example, immigrants from Egypt (23.3 percent), Cape Verde (17.7 percent), South Africa (15.8 percent), and Algeria (13.4 percent) are more likely than some other African origin groups to have arrived in the United States prior to 1980, while immigrants from Cameroon (71.6 percent), Sudan (60.4 percent), Somalia (58.3 percent), and Kenya (58.0 percent) are the most likely among African origin groups to have arrived in the United States between 2000 and 2009.
More than seven out of ten African immigrants spoke only English or spoke English "very well."
In 2009, 22.4 percent of African immigrants age 5 and older reported speaking only English, and 48.5 percent reported speaking English "very well." In contrast, 2.0 percent of all African immigrants reported not speaking English at all, 19.8 percent reported speaking English "well," and 7.3 percent reported speaking English, "but not well." Overall, 29.1 percent of African immigrants were Limited English Proficient (LEP), meaning that they reported speaking English less than "very well."
The African born were significantly less likely to be LEP than the foreign-born population overall, 52.0 percent of which reported limited English proficiency in 2009.
Rates of English proficiency varied substantially by African country of origin, due in part to the variety of languages spoken across African countries. Among African immigrants, those from Cape Verde were most likely to be LEP (60.9 percent), followed by those from Somalia (56.8 percent), Senegal (52.4 percent), Eritrea (51.5 percent), Guinea (47.9 percent), and Sudan (46.6 percent). The highest rates of English proficiency (i.e., speaking only English or speaking English "very well") for African immigrants occurred among immigrants from South Africa (96.9 percent), Zimbabwe (93.6 percent), Liberia (92.0 percent), Nigeria (87.0 percent), Uganda (86.2 percent), and Sierra Leone (81.6 percent).
Note: The term "limited English proficient" refers to any person age 5 and older who reported speaking English "not at all," "not well," or "well" on their survey questionnaire. Individuals who reported speaking only English or speaking English "very well" are considered proficient in English.
Nearly three-quarters of African immigrants reported their race as "Black."
In 2009, 74.4 percent of the African-born population reported their race as Black, either alone or in combination with another race. African immigrants identified as Black at a much higher rate than the native born (14.0 percent) and the foreign born overall (8.6 percent), and accounted for 33.3 percent of all foreignborn Blacks and 2.7 percent the total Black population in the United States.
African-born adults were more likely than the native born to have bachelor's degree or higher level of education.
In 2009, 41.7 percent of African-born adults age 25 and older had a bachelor's degree or higher, compared to 28.1 percent of native-born adults and 26.8 percent of all foreign-born adults. Of these, 25 percent of Africans reported a bachelor's degree as their highest credential, compared to 17.9 percent of the native born and 15.8 percent of immigrants, and 16.7 percent of Africans reported having a higher degree than a bachelor's, compared to 10.2 percent of the native born and 11.0 percent of immigrants.
Among those who reported not having obtained at least a high school diploma or equivalent credential, the African born more closely resembled the native born than the foreign born overall. In 2009, almost one-third (32.3 percent) of immigrants overall had not obtained this credential, compared to 11.7 percent of the African born and 11.4 percent of the native born. The share of African born who reported their highest educational attainment as a high school diploma or some college (46.6 percent) was higher than that of the foreign born overall (40.5 percent), but lower than that of the native born (60.5).
Levels of educational attainment, however, vary widely among African origin countries. The majority of immigrants from Uganda (66.5 percent), Egypt (61.1 percent), Algeria (61.0 percent), Nigeria (60.0 percent), Zimbabwe (57.5 percent), South Africa (55.3 percent), Cameroon (54.6 percent), and Tanzania (51.2 percent) reported a bachelor's degree or more as their highest educational credential. Yet more than a third of immigrants from Cape Verde (38.4), Somalia (37.5 percent), and Guinea (35.0 percent) lacked a high school diploma.
More than 30 percent of employed African-born men worked in service occupations and in construction, extraction, and transportation.
Among the 543,123 African-born male workers age 16 and older employed in the civilian labor force in 2009, 15.9 percent reported working in construction, extraction, and transportation and 15.1 percent reported working in services. Additionally, 12.5 percent reported working in management, business, and finance professions and 10.7 percent reported working in sales.
Among the 369,167 African-born female workers age 16 and older employed in the civilian labor force, 18.7 percent reported working in service occupations, 13.9 percent in healthcare support, 13.1 percent in administrative support occupations, 9.0 percent in sales, and 9.0 percent in management, business, and finance roles.
The African born were more likely to live in poverty in 2009 than were the native born and the foreign born overall.
In 2009, a greater share of African immigrants lived in a household with an annual income below the federal poverty line (18.5 percent) than the native born (13.6 percent) and immigrants overall (17.3 percent).
There were substantial differences between origin countries with respect to the share living in poverty. For example, immigrants from Nigeria (10.6 percent), Morocco (10.8 percent), Sierra Leone (13.5 percent), and Ghana (14.6 percent) were much less likely than African immigrants overall to live below the federal poverty line. In contrast, almost half of all immigrants from Somalia (49.9 percent) live in poverty, and poverty rates for immigrants from Guinea (42.7 percent) and Sudan (41.2 percent) are also well above the average for African immigrants overall. Somalia and Sudan have both accounted for a large number of refugee admissions over the past decade.