African Immigrants Among the Most Educated, but Also Among The Poorest Immigrants in US

It is of common knowledge in the field of economics and sociology that a higher level of education leads to good labor market outcomes, higher wages, and consequently, a better standard of living. However, the case of foreign-born from Africa defies such principle.

According to studies produced in the past 20 years, including recent ones from the American Community Survey, African immigrants have demonstrated remarkable educational attainment. Nearly 65% of African immigrants have one or more years of college education, more than any other ethnic group in the U.S., except Asian immigrants. Despite such outstanding educational attainment, studies have also shown that African immigrants are poorer than the average; 20% of African immigrants live below the poverty line and 41% live below 200% of the poverty line, suggesting that 61% of African immigrants live below the poverty line.

The condition of African immigrants as depicted by studies is as much troubling, as it requires a particular attention. In fact, there are various elements that can explain African immigrants’ poor social conditions despite their exceptional educational attainment, one of them being the existing social structure and issues in the U.S. As an individual process, assimilation in the U.S. is also affected by racism and its related economic and social consequences. Since some Black-Americans are still experiencing some sort of racial discrimination in the United States, it is most likely that Black immigrants from Africa directly or indirectly face the same racial discrimination on the basis of academic credentials, earnings, and access to job in the public sector and employment in general.

In addition, the issue of language barrier is another aspect holding back educated African immigrants from non-English-speaking countries who struggle to be competitive in the job market. Since statistics take into consideration educational attainment achieved abroad, specifically from Africa, the issue of African academic credentials consideration comes into play. Studies have confirmed that because academic degrees acquired in Africa are not respected and considered in the U.S., their holders either decide to take low income jobs than their educational qualification deserves, or they simply stay idle depending on limited government assistance.

Lastly, remittance is another element that needs to be taken into consideration as we attempt to understand African immigrants’ financial struggle. This consists of evaluating the equilibrium between African immigrants’ earnings, their family related spending, their potential disposable income, and the portion of income they have to send back home to assist their families. From 2000 to 2008, remittances to Africa have increased from $11.2 billion to $40.8 billion. In 2009, workers’ remittances to Africa went down to $38.1 billion following the recession in advanced economies, which led to job losses, income cuts, and change in spending of which many U.S. and foreign-born Blacks were victims.

No matter how we can examine the case of African immigrants social condition in the U.S., there is a pressing need for Africans to realize challenges that integration poses to their well-being in the host country and begin to learn to be reactive, to network, and to be innovative by creating new lucrative activities that will enable them to provide jobs for themselves and other Africans. In order to overcome this challenge, the ability for African immigrants to effectively exploit and manage national and ethnic diversity, while transcending political, ideological, and ethnic divides inherited back home becomes an indispensable prerequisite.

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