24 April 2018

African Migrants to the U.S. Are the Cream of the Crop

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The growing number African immigrants who settle in the United States are more highly educated than those who go to Europe, according to a new survey by a major American research group.

The survey also confirms previous studies showing that African immigrants are more likely than Americans to have had some tertiary education.

And in another finding, the survey shows that most African migrants settle in other African countries, and not in the U.S. or Europe.

These are some of the highlights of a study carried out by the non-partisan Pew Research Center and published in Washington on Tuesday.

Key excerpts from the study:

As the annual number of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa to both the United States and Europe has grown for most years this decade, a Pew Research Center analysis of 2015 U.S. Census Bureau and Eurostat data finds that sub-Saharan immigrants in the U.S. tend to be more highly educated than those living in the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Portugal – Europe's historically leading destinations among sub-Saharan immigrants.

In the U.S., 69 percent of sub-Saharan immigrants ages 25 and older in 2015 said they had at least some college experience. In the same year, the share in the UK who reported some college experience was 49 percent, while it was lower still in France (30 percent), Portugal (27 percent) and Italy (10 percent).

Immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa living in the U.S. are also somewhat more likely to be employed than their counterparts in Europe.

In 2015, 92.9 percent of U.S.-based sub-Saharan immigrants said they had a paying job, compared with 84.9 percent in Portugal, 83.7 percent in France and 80.3 percent in Italy.  Meanwhile, the share of sub-Saharan immigrants in the UK who are working (91.5 percent) was nearly equal to that in the U.S.

The U.S., UK, France, Italy and Portugal are some of the top destinations of sub-Saharan migrants living outside of sub-Saharan Africa. As of 2015, however, more than two-thirds (69 percent) of migrants from sub-Saharan countries actually lived in other sub-Saharan African countries.

Together, the U.S., UK, France, Italy and Portugal were home to more than half (57 percent) of the sub-Saharan migrant population living outside sub-Saharan Africa in 2015, according to global migrant population estimates from the United Nations. And the four European countries featured in this report accounted for roughly three-quarters (74 percent) of all sub-Saharan immigrants living in European Union countries, Norway and Switzerland in the same year.

Historically, sub-Saharan immigrants have made up small shares of the total population in the U.S., UK, France, Italy and Portugal – three percent or less in each country, as of 2015. But annual migration to the U.S. and Europe from sub-Saharan Africa rose most years this decade.

In all, well more than a million sub-Saharans have migrated to the U.S. and to EU countries, Norway and Switzerland since 2010. Migration pressures for some sub-Saharans to leave Africa are expected to continue as the continent's population grows, young people struggle to find employment and protracted conflicts continue....

Between 2010 and 2016, about a quarter of sub-Saharan African immigrants entered the U.S. through its diversity visa program, which requires applicants to have at least a high school education. This requirement may help explain why relatively few sub-Saharan immigrants in the U.S. – just 11 percent – have less than a high school education.

Within Europe, Pew Research Center's analysis finds that educational levels of sub-Saharan immigrants varies across the region's top destination countries, with those living in the UK better educated than those in Italy.

Colonial histories have helped contribute to the flow of sub-Saharan immigrants to specific countries. For instance, many of sub-Saharan immigrants living in the UK, France and Portugal were born in countries that were once under the rule of these European states. A key factor can be language. Fluency in a European tongue, whether English, French or Portuguese, may be an advantage for a migrant seeking a job and creating a new life in a destination country.

Thus, UN data show that most of the sub-Saharan immigrant populations in the U.S. and UK come from countries where English is spoken. In fact, English is a language of importance in six of the 10 biggest source countries for sub-Saharan African immigrants in the U.S. and the UK: Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Tanzania.

The top countries of origin for sub-Saharan Africans now living in France and Portugal also share a bond of language with these destinations. For example, many of the top birthplaces for sub-Saharan African immigrants in France are French-speaking African nations or territories, with Madagascar, Senegal or the Ivory Coast accounting for 34 percent of all sub-Saharan migrants living in France.

A similar trend can be seen in Portugal, where the three largest birthplaces for sub-Saharan African immigrants were at one time under Portuguese rule: Angola, Mozambique and Cape Verde. Together, they make up the vast majority (80 percent) of all sub-Saharan migrants living in Portugal....

Immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa ages 25 and older in the U.S. not only stand out from those in Europe, but they are also more likely than the overall U.S.-born population to have at least some college experience (69 percent vs. 60 percent). A similar pattern is present in the UK and Portugal.

There are more modest educational differences between sub-Saharan African immigrants and the native-born populations in France and Italy for the share with a college education, with a lower share of sub-Saharan immigrants in Italy (10 percent) having some college education than those born in Italy (15 percent).

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