John Campbell

Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

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African Immigration and the United States

by John Campbell
September 7, 2011

African immigrants watch a Carnavale parade in Tapachula February 28, 2009. After months of travel from African nations including Somalia and Ethiopia, the U.S. bound immigrants present themselves to Mexican authorities where they are held and processed for two weeks. (Daniel Leclair/Courtesy Reuters)

There is now a significant African-born population in the United States– about four percent of 38.5 million immigrants. It is newer, younger, and better educated but also poorer than other immigrant groups, as  Kristen McCabe from the Migration Policy Institute notes in her fascinating article “U.S. in Focus: African Immigrants in the U.S.” (It should be noted that her statistics include North Africa and she does not discuss undocumented aliens.) It seems likely to me that their relative poverty reflects their recent arrival; other immigrants include significant numbers who have established themselves in the United States for a long time.

Some highlights: from 1980 to 2009, the African-born population in the United States increased from two hundred thousand to 1.5 million, with most immigrants from east and west Africa.  Almost half have arrived since 2000. The top countries of origin were Nigeria, Ethiopia, Egypt, Ghana, and Kenya. Very few have come from southern or central Africa. About one-third live in New York, California, Texas, and Maryland, and about a quarter live in the greater metropolitan areas of New York and Washington. Their English skills and advanced educational levels are generally higher than those of other immigrant groups. In addition, McCabe reports that there are 3.5 million self-identified members of the African Diaspora, a figure that also includes those who are American born.

With the U.S. population more than three hundred million (only China and India are larger), the relative size of the African immigrant community is not large. Nevertheless, as African immigrants become U.S. citizens and the Diaspora grows, they may add a distinctive voice to American discourse on international affairs, especially where they are concentrated in specific electoral districts. That could encourage greater American sophistication and understanding of African issues and developments.

Post a Comment 3 Comments

  • Posted by Hank Cohen

    One characteristic of the African diaspora that is worthy of note is that the immigrants bring the politics of their mother countries with them. Very often, they harbor a contempt for the governments of their mother countries. In addition, they have a hard time finding unity to support their countries before the American government. They are divided by ethnicity and attitudes to the incumbent governments. Most diaspora meetings and demonstrations tend to be denunciatory of the governments back home. The Ethiopian diaspora is particularly vocal in its opposition to the current regime.

  • Posted by Jim Bishop

    Their increasing representation in health care, including work in hospices and facilities for the senile and disabled, are giving other Americans a greater appreciation for their compassion.

  • Posted by Maicibi Alhas

    African immigrants to USA are undisputedly an asset to the host in the sense that these immigrants do works that Americans shun and despise; and the immigrants send back huge sums in remitances back home to enhance their home economies which subsequently reduces dependence on the USA for aids.

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