I was disappointed to hear that our president had referred to Haiti and African countries and their immigrants in unflattering terms. Unfortunately, like many others, he is ignorant (lacks knowledge) of the facts. I see this as a teachable moment for our president and the general public. I write this, not because I am an African immigrant, but primarily because I am an educator who feels compelled to educate the general public about this and set the record straight. Below are a few salient facts about African immigrants and their educational attainment.
I focus here on sub-Saharan Africa, which consists primarily of black African nations, south of the Sahara Desert. This would include countries such as Nigeria, Ghana, and South Africa, and would exclude countries such as Egypt, Morocco and Algeria. My data and facts are from the U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 ACS. Please feel free to fact check me. To provide the background context, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2015, 1.7 million sub-Saharan Africans lived in the U.S., accounting for 4 percent of the 43.3 million immigrants in the United States. Sub-Saharan Africans made up 83 percent of the 2.1 million immigrants to the U.S. from Africa, the remainder coming from North Africa. The flow of sub-Saharan Africans consists of skilled professionals, individuals seeking reunification with relatives, and refugees from war-torn countries.
In 2015, 80 percent of sub-Saharan Africans came from Eastern and Western Africa, with Nigeria, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, and South Africa comprising the top sending countries. Together, these five countries accounted for more than 54 percent of all sub-Saharan Africans in the United States.
Now, to my key point. Again, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, sub-Saharan African immigrants have much higher educational attainment compared to the overall foreign- and native-born populations. In 2015, 39 percent of sub-Saharan Africans (ages 25 and over) had a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 29 percent of the total foreign-born population and 31 percent of the U.S.-born population. Nigerians and South Africans were the most highly educated, with 57 percent holding at least a bachelor’s degree, followed by Kenyans (44 percent), Ghanaians (40 percent), Liberians (32 percent), and Ethiopians (29 percent).
It is important for all of us, in this great nation of immigrants, to be keenly aware of the contributions of our immigrant population. The United States is the greatest country in the world today because of immigrants, and according to a recent SEMCOG report, the state of Michigan will only grow over the next several years because of our immigrant population. Let’s get the facts so we can speak from a position of knowledge and not ignorance.