E.g., 09/18/2019
E.g., 09/18/2019

New Streams: Black African Migration to the United States

June 2011

New Streams: Black African Migration to the United States

This report explores the migration patterns and demographic make-up of Black African immigrants, a small but rapidly rising new immigrant population in the United States. The authors examine the admission channels, human-capital characteristics, and labor market performance of foreign-born Black Africans; they also provide an analysis of these immigrants' integration prospects and projected future flow trends.

Black African immigrants have diverse modes of entry into the United States; however, the report finds that they are much more likely than other immigrants to enter the United States through refugee and diversity programs. The share of unauthorized immigrants is estimated to be somewhat lower among Black Africans than among the overall immigrant population, indicating that Black Africans generally have better prospects for integration than other foreign-born groups. The report also suggests that Black African immigrants are disproportionately high-skilled and well-educated in comparison to both the overall foreign-born and native-born stock. These characteristics, combined with high English proficiency rates, appear to translate into high labor force participation for Black African immigrants, though not necessarily high earnings. The authors suggest that low earnings may indicate underemployment of highly skilled African immigrants as a result of difficulties with credentialing and racial discrimination in the U.S. labor market.

The authors predict that demographic and economic trends in Africa—persisting poverty, recurring political conflicts, and the projected doubling of Africa’s working-age population by 2050—could dramatically increase emigration pressures. Because relatively few Black Africans gain admission to the United States via employment categories, their flows have not subsided noticeably since the 2008 economic downturn. However, the authors believe that a decline in refugee admissions or certain proposed changes to U.S. immigration laws—most notably the elimination of the diversity visa program—could cause future African migration to slow. On the other hand, if the United States were to adopt a mechanism—such as the point system—that promotes more high-skilled immigration, the shift may increase the flow of educated Black African immigrants.

Table of Contents 

I. Introduction: A Long History of Black African Migration

II. A Small But Rapidly Rising New Immigrant Population

III. Increasingly Diverse Origins

IV. Diverse Modes of Entry and Legal Statuses

V. Geographic Settlement Patterns Similar to U.S.-Born Blacks

VI. More Human Capital than Other U.S. Immigrants

VII.High Employment Rates But Relatively Low Earnings

VIII.Underemployment of High-Skilled Africans in the U.S. Workforce

IX. Conclusion: Prospects for Future African Immigration Flows