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African-born Residents of the United States

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African-born Residents of the United States

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The number of people born in Africa and living in the United States has grown considerably in recent years. Census 2000 counted 881,300 Africans, who comprise almost three percent of the total foreign-born population. While the population of African-born residents in the United States is small relative to most other immigrant groups, their numbers are growing. This Spotlight describes the size, origins, and distribution of the African-born population in the United States.

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Defining the "foreign born"
When describing international migrants, the U.S. Census Bureau uses the term foreign born, defined simply as "people who are not U.S. citizens at birth." The foreign-born population includes immigrants, legal non-immigrants (e.g., refugees and persons on student or work visas), and persons illegally residing in the United States. By comparison, the term native refers to people residing in the United States who are U.S. citizens in one of three categories: 1) people born in one of the 50 states or the District of Columbia, 2) people born in the U.S. Insular Areas such as Puerto Rico or Guam, or 3) people born abroad of a U.S. citizen parent.



The number of African immigrants granted legal permanent residency in 2001 was more than twice that in 1989.

In 1989, 25,166 Africans were granted permanent resident status. In 2001, that number was 53,948. Between these years, the number of Africans admitted fluctuated (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Number of Africans admitted by INS, 1989-2001

Source: Based on data from the INS Statistical Yearbook 2001.

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According to Census 2000, more than half of the African born living in the United States entered in the 1990s.

Of the African born counted in Census 2000, 56.6 percent (498,927) entered between 1990 and 2000. One quarter (226,929) entered in the 1980s, and less than 18 percent (155,444) entered before 1980.

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Western Africans make up the largest proportion of the African born, followed by those from Eastern, Northern, Southern, and Middle Africa.

Western Africans (326,507) comprised 36 percent of the African-born population in 2000. The most significant sending countries in this region were Nigeria (134,940), Ghana (65,572), and Sierra Leone (20,831). Eastern Africans (213,299) made up 24 percent of the African-born population. Ethiopians were the largest category from this region, with 69,531 counted in 2000. Northern Africans (190,491) comprised 22 percent of the African born, with Egypt accounting for 113,396. Eight percent (66,496) of the African born were from Southern Africa, most of whom (63,558) were from South Africa. Finally, Middle Africans (26,900) represented three percent of the African born. (Seven percent of the African born were not classified by region of origin.)

Figure 2: Region of Origin for Africans in the United States

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Africans are scattered throughout the country, with the highest concentrations near large cities and in the Northeast.

Forty-four percent of U.S. counties had no African born counted in Census 2000. Only 138 out of 3,141 counties (four percent) had one thousand or more Africans. Twenty-three counties (less than one percent) had 10,000 or more. All of the counties with 500 or more Africans were in metropolitan areas. The Northeast region of the United States (from Pennsylvania up through Maine) had the highest concentration of African-born residents.

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One-third of the African born counted in Census 2000 lived in just three states, yet no state had fewer than 150 Africans.

The state with the largest number of Africans is New York (116,936), followed by California (113,255), Texas (64,470), and Maryland (62,688). The District of Columbia and Maryland have the two highest proportions of Africans (1.61 and 1.18 percent, respectively), followed by Rhode Island (1.15 percent). The states with the fewest African born are Montana (184), Wyoming (261), Alaska (369), and Vermont (511).

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Ninety-five percent of the African born counted in Census 2000 were living in a metropolitan area.

Like many immigrants, the African born are highly urbanized, with 95 percent residing in a metropolitan area in 2000. Almost one-half lived in just 10 cities (see Figure 3). Table 1 lists the twenty-five metropolitan areas with the highest number of Africans, along with their share of the U.S. African-born population and the percentage of their total and foreign-born populations that are African. New York (with 99,126) has the highest number of African born, with Washington close behind (with 93,271). The third highest, Los Angeles, is considerably lower with 43,024 African born. Jersey City has the highest percentage of its total population who are African born (1.96), followed by Washington (1.89). Columbus and Minneapolis rank highest in the proportion of their foreign-born population who are African born (15.6 percent and 14.4 percent, respectively). Washington also ranks high in this measure, with Africans comprising 11.21 percent of its foreign-born population.

Figure 3: Share of Africans in Metropolitan Areas (Census 2000)

 

Table 1: African-born Population in U.S. Metropolitan Areas
Metropolitan Area
African-born Population
African % of Total
African % of Foreign Born
Share of U.S. African Population
New York, NY
99,126
1.06
3.16
11.25
Washington, DC-MD-VA-WV
93,271
1.89
11.21
10.58
Los Angeles-Long Beach, CA
43,024
0.45
1.25
4.88
Atlanta, GA
36,645
0.89
8.7
4.16
Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN-WI
30,388
1.02
14.4
3.45
Boston, MA-NH
29,475
0.87
5.80
3.34
Houston, TX
26,266
0.63
3.07
2.98
Chicago, IL
23,355
0.28
1.64
2.65
Dallas, TX
20,975
0.60
3.55
2.38
Philadelphia, PA-NJ
20,391
0.40
5.71
2.31
Newark, NJ
18,086
0.89
4.69
2.05
Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, WA
16,108
0.67
4.85
1.83
Middlesex-Somerset-Hunterdon, NJ
13,142
1.12
5.40
1.49
Baltimore, MD
13,007
0.51
8.90
1.48
Providence-Fall River-Warwick, RI-MA
12,380
1.04
8.67
1.40
Oakland, CA
12,006
0.50
2.09
1.36
Jersey City, NJ
11,961
1.96
5.10
1.36
San Diego, CA
11,905
0.42
2.0
1.35
Columbus, OH
11,114
0.72
15.6
1.26
Orange County, CA
10,387
0.36
1.22
1.18
Detroit, MI
9,532
0.21
2.84
1.08
San Jose, CA
8,699
0.52
1.52
0.99
Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, NC
7,910
0.67
7.3
0.90
Nassau-Suffolk, NY
7,786
0.28
1.96
0.88
Denver, CO
7,616
0.36
3.27
0.86

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The longer Africans have been in the United States, the less geographically concentrated they have become.

According to Census 2000 data, the geographic concentration of Africans who arrived between 1990 and 2000 is higher than for those who arrived in earlier decades. This suggests that like other immigrant groups, Africans tend to settle closer to each other upon arrival, becoming more spread out the longer they have lived in the United States.