November 2, 2015

African immigrant population in U.S. steadily climbs

Immigration From Africa Surges Since 1970African immigrants make up a small share of the U.S. immigrant population, but their numbers are growing – roughly doubling every decade since 1970, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census data.

There were 1.8 million African immigrants living in the U.S. in 2013, up from 881,000 in 2000 and a substantial increase from 1970, when the U.S. was home to only 80,000 foreign-born Africans. They accounted for 4.4% of the immigrant population in 2013, up from 0.8% in 1970.

The growth is evident among recently arrived immigrants. When compared with other major groups who arrived in the U.S. in the past five years, Africans had the fastest growth rate from 2000 to 2013, increasing by 41% during that period. (Africans are also a rapidly growing segment of the black immigrant population in the U.S., increasing by 137% from 2000 to 2013.)

The transatlantic slave trade beginning in the 16th century brought hundreds of thousands of enslaved Africans to the U. S., but significant voluntary migration from Africa is a relatively new trend. 

One factor behind this recent wave can be traced to the Refugee Act of 1980, which made it easier for those fleeing conflict-ridden areas, such as Somalia and Ethiopia, to resettle in the U.S. Back then, less than 1% of all refugee arrivals were from Africa, compared with 32% today, according to figures from the U.S. State Department’s Refugee Processing Center. Statistics from the Yearbook of Immigration Statistics confirm this point. Among refugee arrivals in 2013, five of the top 10 countries of nationality were in Africa: Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia.

Nigeria, Ethiopia, Egypt Are Top Birthplaces for African Immigrants in U.S.

African immigrants from the sub-Saharan region are also more likely than immigrants overall to enter the U.S. through the diversity visa program – an act passed in 1990 to encourage immigration from underrepresented nations. This legislation was initially intended to boost the number of Europeans migrating to the U.S., but many Africans have also benefited from the initiative.

Foreign-born Africans come from all over the continent, but the most common countries of origin for African immigrants are Nigeria, Ethiopia, Egypt, Ghana and Kenya. These five countries accounted for nearly half of the foreign-born African population in the U.S in 2o13.

African immigrants are more likely to settle in the South (38%) or the Northeast (27%) than in the West (18%) or Midwest (17%), while the largest numbers of African immigrants are found in New York, California, Texas, Maryland and New Jersey. Each of these states is home to at least 100,000 foreign-born Africans.

In other states, Africans represent a higher percentage of the foreign-born population than the national average. Many African refugees from Sudan, Somalia and Ethiopia have settled in South Dakota (Ethiopians are the largest immigrant group overall there). Africans make up 28% of South Dakota’s foreign-born population. Fueled by Minnesota’s sizable Somali-born community, 21% of the foreign-born population in that state is African. Africans account for a sizable portion of the overall immigrant population in several other areas, including Washington, D.C., Maryland and Maine.

Note: The map that accompanies this post has been updated.

Topics: African Americans, Immigration Trends, Middle East and North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa

  1. Photo of Monica Anderson

    is a research analyst focusing on internet, science and technology at Pew Research Center.

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  1. Jane wanjiku njenga6 months ago

    Hae,am from Africa (kenya) and we are capable of doing any kinds qjob nomartter how one is educated try us and give us more chances in USA

  2. LaTrece6 months ago

    It would be interesting to know how the Africans are doing with earning income as compared to other immigrants, to explore the impact of racism on foreign born Africans and African Americans. Is there experience the same or different and why?

    1. Anonymous2 weeks ago

      I want to know this as well. I can tell that there is definitely a significant difference in how African immigrants are treated compared to Mexican immigrants (which I used that country from the Americas, because there are more of them here than any other immigrant and Latin country). I also want to know why many Africans aren’t settling in Chicago or the state of Illinois period. There are many Africans in Chicago, especially on the Northside. It’s a nice place to live, and filled with much Black (African) culture.

  3. Mark7 months ago

    This is happening while people in richer countries choose not to breed. This kind of racial imbalance is going to blend all humans into a single color. So much for liberal diversity.

  4. NursieGal7 months ago

    Nearly 80% of all new hires where I work, and 4 other nurses I know (in different jobs/states) are African, mainly Nigerian. I also know MANY American nurses now struggling to find work – and at lower pay, now.

    1. John Locke7 months ago

      Immigration should be tied to unemployment. As I see it, we need exactly zero new immigrants.

      1. Advocate6 months ago

        As I see it, Americans are lazy. If immigrants are will to do work that we simply dont take seriously then more power to them. They may be immigrants but thier work ethic is far better than your or your fellow nurses will ever be.

  5. Jack7 months ago

    First, one might shed a tear for the established American black population because they will be impacted the most by this, especially the underclass. The pie and society’s patience can only be sliced so many ways. 2nd Obama has been on a mission to sink the American lifeboat and everyone in that boat, including blacks, will sink with it. My surmise is he expects to be long gone before that happens (Kenya or Indonesia). I know, I know, but just wait and see like you did waiting for hope and change. I’ll take no joy in being right because I love my grand kids and the USA.

  6. Bernard Wijeyasingha7 months ago

    Unlike the American Black population, Africans are not effected by the history of slavery. They do not carry that baggage and are enslaved by it. African immigrants like any others, come here with a open mind, to prosper. Maybe they would have an influence on the American black population, which is one of the most affluent communities in the world, to leave the legacy of slavery out of politics, and reach for a better future.

    1. Zudie7 months ago

      Your coded language is condescending and fallacious. Why would you assume that American blacks have no desire to prosper? That’s a gross generalization.

      Contrary to what you want to believe, we are not ashamed of our past or that “baggage” to which you refer. Many of us are well-educated and productive. With pride, I can say that American blacks literally built this country. The rights which resulted from our collective struggle have paved the way for immigrants of African descent–and other places around the globe–to seek jobs and educations in the United States. Save the snide remarks, Bernard.

      1. Kalle7 months ago

        Are you not aware that there is a greater prejudice that African immigrants feel is coming from African Americans rather than any other american racial group.
        If not, than you should speak about it with the next cab driver from Ghana, Senigal, Mali, Ethiopia and ect. All hard working people trying to make a better life for themselves and their families in the United States.

  7. Jon7 months ago

    in case the moderators and readers are wondering why they have been bombarded with a lot of xenophobic and hate comments, this article was posted on drudgereport with the title “1 in 3 refugees are from Africa”

    1. Joe7 months ago

      Is that not a factual title?

    2. chicago8607 months ago

      What’s your point?

    3. Goodgolden7 months ago

      And your point is???

  8. T Tannin7 months ago

    What?? Don’t they know that the US is the most horribly racist country in the whole wide universe?

  9. Deborah Pierce7 months ago

    I cannot help but ask,Will there be wars from factions caused by certain groups being immigrated together, the genuine, appreciative ones trying to escape discrimination and war, and those disengenuous oportunists who lie and cause trouble for those who do not? Many terrorists have promised to infiltrate though the borders, and yet, who speaks their languages and knows what they are about? There are some that cannot, will not, desire not to assimilate to american values. Laws that respect all as equal under it, laws that guarantee freedom like speech, worship, prayer and laws that protect one’s own private property against collectivism are important here. People are coming with wierd views that are far less christian, far less diverse, far less forgiving of others. Some are fascist by definition because of their extreme exclusivity and punishment of those within who do not conform to their “norms”. Some are just as “fascist” as those melded antiamerican groups today, attacking and boycotting christians, demanding a person goes to jail for not making them cake? I hope we are not in for more “transformations” like that, ones we lose sleep and security over.

  10. John Locke7 months ago

    Are there any sane people in power that question whether or not this will benefit the American people? I know the answer and they should too.

  11. usamomof37 months ago

    How do they accurately count “immigrants” when our borders are wide open? How can you possibly account for the thousands upon thousands of people illegally entering the country? Until we have a system that screens people as they enter, these kinds of studies and reports are useless.

  12. Duke Nukem7 months ago

    “Out of deference to the critics, I want to comment on … what the bill will not do. First, our cities will not be flooded with a million immigrants annually. Under the proposed bill, the present level of immigration remains substantially the same … Secondly, the ethnic mix of this country will not be upset … Contrary to the charges in some quarters, S.500 will not inundate America with immigrants from any one country or area, or the most populated and economically deprived nations of Africa and Asia. In the final analysis, the ethnic pattern of immigration under the proposed measure is not expected to change as sharply as the critics seem to think. Thirdly, the bill will not permit the entry of subversive persons, criminals, illiterates, or those with contagious disease or serious mental illness. As I noted a moment ago, no immigrant visa will be issued to a person who is likely to become a public charge … the charges I have mentioned are highly emotional, irrational, and with little foundation in fact. They are out of line with the obligations of responsible citizenship. They breed hate of our heritage.”(Senate Part 1, Book 1, pp. 1-3) — Senator Edward Kennedy on the 1965 Immigration Act

    Democrats Force U.S. TaxPayers to Fund Illegal Alien Welfare

    1. mitch7 months ago

      Sounds like propaganda to me.
      This is a treasonous and seditious act and is NOT to the benefit of Americans. Nothing our Govt does is EVER to the benefit of her citizens. This only benefits big business by providing cheap wages. The purpose is to break the middle class and create an even larger, dependent class of poor who are easily controlled and forced to vote for more goodies from the public trough ie Democrat.

    2. John Locke7 months ago

      Gee is that you Ted Kennedy? I thought you had died some years back. We lost JFK, who would be a conservative now, and got stuck with you. All of the huge legislation that is destructive is sold to the people with lies. The Hart-Cellar Act was one of the worst last century. Actually, it was the worst and none talk about getting rid of it. We are no longer an agrarian society that needs millions of low-skill laborers.

  13. Bill7 months ago

    Pew research will only allow posts that are politically correct. They will never allow people to speak their mind. Only if people say they are thrilled with the fundamental transformation of America will Pew ever allow the comment to be posted.

    1. Bob Suyak7 months ago

      You are 100% right, can’t even use sarcasm. They are part of the PC madness.

      1. Coras7 months ago

        Its not PC madness. This is intentional.

  14. Joe7 months ago

    Way past time to stop all immigration both legal and illegal for at least 10 years, deport who we can deport and mandate assimilation or forced deportation!!!

  15. KC7 months ago

    Will this change the dynamic of affirmative action based on race? Right or wrong, the justification for race based affirmative action has always been the result of historical and institutional prejudices against the descendants of slaves. Neither of these justifications apply to newly arrived African immigrants.

    1. Wayne Dorniels7 months ago

      No, it won’t change anything. The welfare state will continue to grow.

      Even when “Whites” are in the minority, they will still be treated like they’re the majority, and non-whites in the majority will still be treated as if they’re the minority. They already have a term for it ready to go, it’s called “Minority Majority”.

      1. Anonymous2 weeks ago

        We are all immigrant except the “native Americans.” We have rob, pillage, and forcefully take their Godly endowed land from them. God will judge!