Something You Should Know About African Immigrants in the US …. Pass It On

by Nelima

Over the weekend I was chatting with some friends about the need for mentoring programs for young Africans. I was taken back to the time when I was part of a forum on getting immigrant girls to think about college. I was assigned to a group of about six African girls and we started to explore interests and career ideas. What struck me the most was that all, but one of these girls were not sure about going to college. “How will I make college when I don’t know if I’ll finish college?”  said one. This was such a different attitude from my high school days. Granted not everyone was expecting to go to college, but I’d never heard anyone say that they weren’t sure they’d make it through high school. And even most of those who didn’t make it to college were hindered mostly because of limited space and funds, but if the opportunity was available they would go to college.  

With that in mind, I would like to share some excerpts from a page on African immigrants to the US, which I found on Wikipedia a couple years back. Feel free to share, feel obligated to share if you are a mentor.

Africans have the highest educational attainment rates of any immigrant group in the United States with higher levels of completion than the stereotyped Asian American model minority. It is not only the first generation that does well, as estimates indicate that a highly disproportionate percentage of black students at elite universities are African or the children of African immigrants.

In an analysis of Census Bureau data by the Journal of Blacks in higher education, African immigrants to the United States were found more likely to be college educated than any other immigrant group. African immigrants to the U.S. are also more highly educated than any other native-born ethnic group including white Americans. Some 48.9 percent of all African immigrants hold a college diploma. This is slightly more than the percentage of Asian immigrants to the U.S., nearly double the rate of native-born white Americans, and nearly four times the rate of native-born African Americans.


In 1997, 19.4 percent of all adult African immigrants in the United States held a graduate degree, compared to 8.1 percent of adult whites and 3.8 percent of adult blacks in the United States, respectively. This information suggests that America has an equally large achievement gap between whites and African/Asian immigrants as it does between white and black Americans.


Of the African-born population in the United States age 25 and older, 86.4% reported having a high school degree or higher, compared with 78. 9% of Asian born immigrants and 76.5% of European born immigrants, respectively. These figures contrast with 61.8% percent of the total foreign-born population.

And if you are interested in becoming a mentor for young African women, check out the Big Sister/Mentor opportunity in the MinneAfrica Job-Link section.

16 thoughts on “Something You Should Know About African Immigrants in the US …. Pass It On

  1. That is an achievement we should be proud of. Hope that statistics like these could be shown to high school African youth who think there’s no hope and there’s no way of reaching their dreams.
    We need to keep encouraging the younger generation and show them through our work and actions that there are limitless opportunities.

  2. Ala I see what you are getting at. The girls at the forum were all West African. If my memory serves me right, 3 were Liberian, 1 Nigerian, I Ghanain and the other Togolese. The Togolese girl was the one who wanted to pursue nursing. The one who made the comment about not being so sure about college was Liberian, she was the most outspoken of the group. The other girls kind of nodded when she made that comment as if in agreement.

    A few months afterwards I mentored some East African girls, mostly Somali and Ethiopian. They seemed to be more sure about college, perhaps because they had a stronger support network out of school.

    Whatever the eco-social demographic, social networks greatly influence the paths these youth take. In the absence of parents or family support networks (which is common for African immigrant families) the youth usually adopt the attitude of the leader of their group.

  3. Big Brothers Big Sisters/Boys and Girls Clubs are always in need of mentors. I mentor a young Sudanese girl and it is quite a fulfilling experience. If you happen to be in the Minneapolis area you can also look up “Today’s Women” a mentor group by African ladies to high school girls. Contact info available.

  4. Souffle thanks so much for sharing please email the contact info to minneafrica[at]gmail[dot]com. Thanks!

  5. Now this is the kind of information I like to read. Thanks and YES pass this on. A lot of us lack confidence and as a result lack ambition.

  6. This is great news, but I would like to see more mentor groups for the young African men. They are the ones who seem to be getting into most of the trouble. Where are the Big Brothers? Congratulations to the Big Sisters out there, keep up with the good work.

  7. Pingback: Elusive employment opportunities for foreign-trained African Immigrants « MinneAfrica

  8. Being originally from Liberia, I couldn’t help but feel sad to learn about Nelima’s experience with the girls–only the Liberian girl in the group wasn’t sure she wanted to go to college.

    I think that it’s important to note that many Liberian youth are finding school challenging and perhaps dropping out at a higher rate than other Africans (don’t have data to support) because of their past experiences brought on by the Liberian civil war. Many don’t have the basic educational skills needed to succeed in school and they somehow fall through the cracks because they are “English-speaking” and outspoken (as Nelima pointed out). I believe that many view them as rude and aggressive—but it’s all a cover for all the things they’re lacking and the hopelessness they’re feeling. I know this because I too am a civil war survivor and I could tell stories about my own postwar traumas but I’ll save that for another day…

    All I’m trying to say is that many youth who come from refugee situations are broken in many ways that are not visible physically. We need to keep that in mind and not give up on them too quickly.

    In terms of parental support, many parents are also having a difficult time dealing with the past, taking care of family on different shores, trying to adjust to the American way of life, etc.—-frankly, some are not equip to help their children and others just give up. It’s sad but it is what it is.

    Again, let’s not be too quick to judge and let go. The noise they make (outspoken) is only a cry for help.

    Thanks for sharing. We need to do this more often.

  9. Fascinating piece. I’m sorry I’m so long in finding it. Did a google search to find education/social stats for African immigrants and this article came up. Will pass it along to others. I’m very interested in the information sources for your statistics. Can you share?

  10. Great stats! Thanks Archana.

    I particularly like;

    More than seven out of ten African immigrants spoke only English or spoke English “very well.”
    In 2009, 22.4 percent of African immigrants age 5 and older reported speaking only English, and 48.5 percent reported speaking English “very well.” In contrast, 2.0 percent of all African immigrants reported not speaking English at all, 19.8 percent reported speaking English “well,” and 7.3 percent reported speaking English, “but not well.” Overall, 29.1 percent of African immigrants were Limited English Proficient (LEP), meaning that they reported speaking English less than “very well.”

    The African born were significantly less likely to be LEP than the foreign-born population overall, 52.0 percent of which reported limited English proficiency in 2009.

    Rates of English proficiency varied substantially by African country of origin, due in part to the variety of languages spoken across African countries. Among African immigrants, those from Cape Verde were most likely to be LEP (60.9 percent), followed by those from Somalia (56.8 percent), Senegal (52.4 percent), Eritrea (51.5 percent), Guinea (47.9 percent), and Sudan (46.6 percent). The highest rates of English proficiency (i.e., speaking only English or speaking English “very well”) for African immigrants occurred among immigrants from South Africa (96.9 percent), Zimbabwe (93.6 percent), Liberia (92.0 percent), Nigeria (87.0 percent), Uganda (86.2 percent), and Sierra Leone (81.6 percent).

    Note: The term “limited English proficient” refers to any person age 5 and older who reported speaking English “not at all,” “not well,” or “well” on their survey questionnaire. Individuals who reported speaking only English or speaking English “very well” are considered proficient in English.

  11. Great website you have here but I was wanting to know if you
    knew of any community forums that cover the same topics discussed in
    this article? I’d really love to be a part of online community where I can get responses from other experienced people that share the same interest. If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Kudos!

  12. Pingback: Something You Should Know About African Immigrants in the US …. Pass It On | PERCEPTION MEDIA

  13. You dont get it.other races have found out that education is not critaria to becoming a sucessfull individual.we are still going by what our parents thought us.if you search through history.the most sucessfull people where all uneducated.intellectual educated people only know what is in the books already.a real life example is,with all the educated people in africa have we improved in any part of our economy like the westarn world or even asia.we just investing in their economy with all the expensive tution fees you have to pay as a foriegn student.

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