African Immigrants: Entering a Racial Wealth Divide

Historically and contemporarily, the topic of immigration ignites many of the passions revolving around the central socio-economic issues of the time. The immigration of African people to the United States deeply intersects with ongoing racial economic inequality and how the inequality of the past is being replicated intothe future. Currently, the United States has an immigrant population of about 43.4 million, with African immigrants making up roughly 3.9 percent of all immigrants in 2009.

These 1.7 million mostly Black immigrants come to this country in pursuit of the “American Dream” of economic opportunity and prosperity yet find that the racial economic inequality that has prevented most African Americans from ever fully participating in the “American Dream” also is a barrier to their economic advancement.

The number of Black immigrants living in the US has risen 13-fold from 1970 to 2010, increasing their share of the Black population from 1% to 10%. African immigrants make up about 40% of the Black immigrant population, with most Black immigrants coming from the West Indies.

Like most immigrant groups, African immigrants create their own social enclave here in the United States, but this enclave exists within spaces defined by native social hierarchies and communities. African immigrants are disproportionately found in big American cities and usually carve out their own geographical concentration in an area that has historically been populated by African Americans.

In the 2009 US Census, nearly 80% of African immigrants reported their race as “Black,” which is a major change from 1980 when 42% of African immigrants reported their race as White —likely reflecting a stronger presence of North African or Arab immigrants.

African immigrants are most often some of the most highly educated from their native countries and have higher educational attainment levels than most native-born Americans. Over 40% of African immigrants have completed four or more years of college.

For such a highly educated and predominately English-speaking community, one would expect economic results far stronger than have been documented thus far. In 2007, African immigrants’ median income, based on 2007 data, was a mere $44,000 compared to a national median income of $50,740. To put this in perspective, according to the American Community Survey, from 2010-2014 only 20% of White Americans had a bachelor’s degree but had a median salary of almost $60,000.

The 2009 American Community Survey also shows, that a greater share of African immigrants lived in a household with an annual income below the federal poverty line at 18.5% than the native- born Americans (13.6%) and immigrants overall at 17.3% despite their higher educational levels.

Much more work must be done to examine in depth how African immigrants fit into the American racial wealth divide, but for now it is important to note that even African’s immigrating from another continent do not escape the long history and contemporary reality of Black Americans having a lower socio-economic status.

Coauthored with Natalie Gerber, Racial Wealth Divide Initiative Intern.

More articles by:

Dedrick Asante-Muhammad is host of the Race and Wealth Podcast and Director of the Racial Wealth Divide Initiative at the Corporation for Economic Development.

Weekend Edition
March 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Michael Uhl
The Tip of the Iceberg: My Lai Fifty Years On
Bruce E. Levine
School Shootings: Who to Listen to Instead of Mainstream Shrinks
Mel Goodman
Caveat Emptor: MSNBC and CNN Use CIA Apologists for False Commentary
Paul Street
The Obama Presidency Gets Some Early High Historiography
Kathy Deacon
Me, My Parents and Red Scares Long Gone
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Rexless Abandon
Andrew Levine
Good Enemies Are Hard To Find: Therefore Worry
Jim Kavanagh
What to Expect From a Trump / Kim Summit
Ron Jacobs
Trump and His Tariffs
Joshua Frank
Drenched in Crude: It’s an Oil Free For All, But That’s Not a New Thing
Gary Leupp
What If There Was No Collusion?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Bernard Fall Dies on the Street Without Joy
Robert Fantina
Bad to Worse: Tillerson, Pompeo and Haspel
Brian Cloughley
Be Prepared, Iran, Because They Want to Destroy You
Richard Moser
What is Organizing?
Scott McLarty
Working Americans Need Independent Politics
Rohullah Naderi
American Gun Violence From an Afghan Perspective
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Why Trump’s Tariff Travesty Will Not Re-Industrialize the US
Ted Rall
Democrats Should Run on Impeachment
Robert Fisk
Will We Ever See Al Jazeera’s Investigation Into the Israel Lobby?
Kristine Mattis
Superunknown: Scientific Integrity Within the Academic and Media Industrial Complexes
John W. Whitehead
Say No to “Hardening” the Schools with Zero Tolerance Policies and Gun-Toting Cops
Edward Hunt
UN: US Attack On Syrian Civilians Violated International Law
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraq Outside History
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: The Long Hard Road
Victor Grossman
Germany: New Faces, Old Policies
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
The Iraq Death Toll 15 Years After the US Invasion
Binoy Kampmark
Amazon’s Initiative: Digital Assistants, Home Surveillance and Data
Chuck Collins
Business Leaders Agree: Inequality Hurts The Bottom Line
Jill Richardson
What We Talk About When We Talk About “Free Trade”
Eric Lerner – Jay Arena
A Spark to a Wider Fire: Movement Against Immigrant Detention in New Jersey
Negin Owliaei
Teachers Deserve a Raise: Here’s How to Fund It
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
What to Do at the End of the World? Interview with Climate Crisis Activist, Kevin Hester
Kevin Proescholdt
Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke Attacks America’s Wilderness
Franklin Lamb
Syrian War Crimes Tribunals Around the Corner
Beth Porter
Clean Energy is Calling. Will Your Phone Company Answer?
George Ochenski
Zinke on the Hot Seat Again and Again
Lance Olsen
Somebody’s Going to Extremes
Robert Koehler
Breaking the Ice
Pepe Escobar
The Myth of a Neo-Imperial China
Graham Peebles
Time for Political Change and Unity in Ethiopia
Terry Simons
10 American Myths “Refutiated”*
Thomas Knapp
Some Questions from the Edge of Immortality
Louis Proyect
The 2018 Socially Relevant Film Festival
David Yearsley
Keaton’s “The General” and the Pernicious Myths of the Heroic South