IIL Banner 2013
Black Immigration
The New Africans in America:

Africa, consisting of 55 countries and 1.1 billion people, is not fully represented in the migrant population coming to the U.S., even with increased flow. Only 12 countries, led by Nigeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana and the island nation of Cape Verde, account for 75% of the African migrant population. Egyptians are the second largest African population, but the focus here is sub-Saharan migrants to the U.S. which number 1.6 million. New arrivals in the last decade equal more than the total of the first 60 years of the last century. Almost 50% of African immigrants are recent arrivals, arriving within the last 25 years, and the major concentrations have developed in New York, California, Texas, and Maryland. Current flow numbers of African immigrants are just over 100,000 per year.

Immigration is dramatically impacting the U.S. Black population. As a significant sub-population, Black America has experienced little foreign integration in comparison to White America. Over 65 million people have migrated here since 1820, the beginning of records. Virtually every family has been impacted by the reality of intermarriage among different ethnic backgrounds, making Americans more diverse than any nation before it. A substantive change in policy and global patterns is creating demographic change and increasingly this is changing communities of color.

Over the last half century, only 800,000 African immigrants came to the U.S. This is only 3.3% of the total migrant flow but more than 8% of the U.S. Black population. There were an estimated 10.7 million slaves brought to the Americas, for comparison. While the U.S. took in over 50,000 Germans every year in the first half of the last century, Africans were virtually barred with a cap of 1,500 for the whole continent. Jamaica is the largest single Black source country, adding yet more sociological complexity to the dynamics of change. The aggregate U.S. Black immigration population has increased fourfold since 1980 and stands at a record 3.8 million (1).

Ask students about the origins of highly educated immigrants and "Asia" is the first reply. However, African immigrants are among the most educated, with over 41% having a college degree. Over 37% work in management, business, and science. With 21% arriving as refugees, the combination of disrupted lives and education, as well as the issues of prejudice, have led to higher levels of underemployed for this segment of African newcomers.

The implications of the rapidly growing Black immigrant population are to be explored. While 22 Spanish-speaking countries feed the U.S. 'Hispanic' culture, creating a vibrant and diverse sub-population, language is the common denominator. Among Africans, the common denominators are few, such as having been in the majority and now experiencing themselves as a racial minority. As an observer, it is difficult to see an expressed, common bond between the African and native-born Black communities and there is little evidence of political recognition. About half of African immigrants are naturalized citizens but there is no binding Pan-African organization or natural force. Boston College Professor Margaret Lombe also points out the complexity of addressing both immigration and race let alone of the relationship between the foreign and native born communities of color. "The impact that contemporary African migration to the U.S. has on the native Black population is locked in a complex relationship of interdependence. To understand the impact, one has to unpack the mutual dependence that defines this relationship," writes Lombe. No simple or generalized assessment of the impact does justice to this multi variegated organic reality but clearly both communities change, as is true of dynamic, two-way integration processes.

With leadership, such as award winning novelist Dinaw Mengestu, sports star Med Keflezighi, supermodel Alek Wek, communications industry leader Noah Samara (Worldspace, CEO), or Academy Award nominee Djimon Hounsou (among hundreds of others), Africans are increasing familiar cultural contributors. Hundreds can be added to the list of notable and famous African-born Americans, including outstanding scholars at most elite universities. Perhaps the son of a Kenyan economist brought alive the new era most dramatically via the Presidency of Barack Obama. Cultural familiarity with individuals enlivens awareness while public figures often serve as cultural brokers, creating acceptance and suggesting cultural contribution and integration.

However, current African integration is still impacted by race, language, and sometimes religion. Much serious scholarly work lies ahead to track this generation's patterns of labor mobility, economic parity, civic engagement, and social acceptance in housing and marriage. While some scholarship is emerging, there is a notable lack of published research on this population. While some attention is given to African immigrants who significantly outweigh native-born Blacks in college acceptance and there is emerging research on a couple of Black immigrant groups, there is still much to be done. How well native blacks integrate with newcomers will be the subject of future dissertations. Meanwhile studies such as that of Ryan, Gee, and Laflamme point out elevated levels of hypertension and the consistent experience of facing discrimination (2). Having a population that often left elite status in their native culture and then had to begin again as a minority, is particularly informative to both the sociological realities of the U.S. and the professional challenges needed within the culture to serve these newcomers appropriately. The high percentage of African immigrants who have come as refugees makes demands on social workers but the field is still missing professional leadership from within the ranks of these ethnic groups.

Disaggregating the population to see sub-Sahara African immigrants distinctly alongside Caribbean immigrants, North Africans, and White Africans, will be a rich contribution to African American studies, diaspora studies, and social work preparation and practice. Now dated work such as Massey's (3) on the disproportionate percentage of immigrant blacks succeeding in higher education are fertile ground for further study underlying anti-oppression work and minority empowerment. Migration Policy Institute raises the question of the 1.2 million children of Black immigrants (11% of Black children in America) and their performance. Will there be equal opportunity or downward pressure based on racial group performance outcomes? Brookings puts this population into the larger demographic shift to a minority/majority country by 2044 in William Frey's Diversity Explosion. He posits the question of whether the U.S. will have a prepared workforce as White baby boomers retire. Some note the largest wage gap is between highly educated Black immigrants and similarly educated White native-born workers (4). One analysis of the 'unexplained' wage difference points to nearly 50% of the difference being attributable to discrimination.

Kareemah Sabur, Boston College School of Social Work, class of 2016, raised arresting questions: are Black Americans being left behind? Is there a judgement that race has led some to see Blackness in America as an 'assimilation-resistant other'? Will Africans try to assimilate into African American populations? Will they honor the history of oppression and the hard-won openness they will find in education and elsewhere as a result of the African American struggle?  Is there a common narrative?

Integration barriers differ in cities and counties, in states and regions, and differ by status, education, race, and language. One of the more promising areas of study is the generally high employment, education attainment, and economic status of sub-Saharan, Africa-born Americans. Identifying their successful pathways can inform our increasingly diverse culture to sustain opportunity and pathways to enable all to become 'Americans'. From a social work, social policy perspective, the minority of the minority warrants attention.

1. Anderson, M. (2015, April 9). A rising share of the U.S. Black population is foreign born. Washington, DC: Pew Research Center.
2. Ryan, A. M., Gee, G. C., & Laflamme, D. F. (2006). The association between self-reported discrimination, physical health and blood pressure: Findings from African Americans, Black immigrants, and Latino immigrants in New Hampshire. Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, 17(2), 116-132.
3. Massey,D., Mooney,M., Torres, K., & Charles, C. (2007). Black immigrants and Black natives attending selective colleges and universities in the United States. American Journal of Education, 113(2), 243-271.

4. Konadu-Agyemang, K.., Takyi, B., Arthur, J. A. (2006). The new African diaspora in North America: Trends, community building, and adaptation. Oxford, UK: Lexington Books.

Westy Egmont, Director
BCSSW Immigrant Integration Lab

OrganizationalAGENCY FOCUS
The African Bridge Network (ABN), based in Boston, aims to create an empowering and supportive environment for African immigrants. Through job and career advising, professional mentorship, and networking workshops, ABN works to help African immigrants leverage qualifications and experience to maximize their employment potential. While ABN serves African immigrants in the U.S. from all walks of life, its services are most appealing to high-skilled African immigrants. Emmanuel Owusu, founding board member of ABN, says that the agency's focus on high-skilled African immigrants is intentional because these people are "more likely to integrate successfully in the U.S., lead the whole African immigrant community, and possibly engage the African continent on a different level." To learn more about the ABN please click here > > 
ABN's emphasis on professional development and networking makes it unique. In the absence of similar organizations in the U.S., ABN has learned a lot from Professional Immigrant Networks (PINs) of Canada. As its name suggests, PINs is a network of organizations in the greater Toronto area that focuses on employment of skilled immigrants. By connecting with other organizations, PINs member agencies bolster their profile in the community, share resources, and encourage networking between immigrant groups. To learn more about PINs please click here > >  

Other networks have also been emerging, such as Young African Professionals (YAP) of Washington, D.C. Although YAP doesn't advertise itself as an organization that focuses on immigrants, it does similar work to Boston's ABN. By working to build bridges between young African professionals, both native born and those who have immigrated, YAP works to connect African leaders, foster connections across industries, and support African culture and entrepreneurial activity. To learn more about YAP please click here > >

The impact of acculturation style and acculturative hassles on the mental health of Somali adolescent refugees
Lincoln, A. K., Lazarevic, V., White, M. T., & Ellis, B. H. (2015).
Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health, [Epub ahead of print]
Depressive and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms in refugees are often attributed to past traumatic experiences, whereas the additional stressors related to the resettlement and acculturation process are not always identified. This recent study examined the relationship between acculturation styles, acculturative hassles, and well-being by analyzing data from 135 Somali adolescents who had resettled as refugees in the U.S. The research team found that greater levels of trauma and severe acculturation hassles were associated with higher levels of depressive and PTSD symptoms. Acculturative hassles were also more likely to impact the PTSD symptoms of adolescents who felt socially marginalized by both the Somali and host communities. Adolescents with marginalized and separated acculturation styles had higher level of depressive symptoms than those with assimilated and integrated acculturation styles. These findings stress the importance of examining the impact of both past trauma and current acculturative hassles on the depressive and PTSD symptoms of refugee adolescents.
We left one war and came to another: Resource loss, acculturative stress, and caregiver-child relationships in Somali refugee families
Betancourt, T. S., Abdi, S., Ito, B. S., Lilienthal, G. M., Agalab, N., & Ellis, H. (2015). 
Cultural Diversity & Ethnic Minority Psychology, 21(1), pp.114-125
Traumatic events and the resettlement process can result in mental health issues that decrease the ability for refugee families to react positively to stressors in a new environment. This recent study examined qualitative data obtained through focus groups to identify the strengths and resources utilized by resilient Somali refugee families who have resettled in the U.S. After looking at resource loses and gains, the team found that religion, healthy family communication, support networks, peer support, and community talk were common protective factors in these Somali families and the host community. Successful intervention programs would strengthen community networks, enhance communication between children and parents, provide parenting skills classes and nurture peer support between newly resettled refugees and Somali refugees who have lived in the U.S. for a longer period of time.

Toward a minority culture of mobility: Immigrant integration into the African-American middle class
Clerge, O. (2014).
Sociology Compass, 8(10), pp. 1167-1182 
Since the 1960s, two important social transformations have occurred in the United States: the rise of the Black middle class and the influx of immigrants from Latin, America, Asia, and Africa. The ways in which the Black middle class is a potential pathway of integration for immigrants is not well understood. This article reviews the sociological debates on the socioeconomic incorporation of immigrants and the racial and ethnic relations of new and old African-Americans. It discusses the important contributions of minority culture of mobility hypothesis for class-based theories of immigrant integration. The authors draw from the literature on social stratification, race relations, and immigrant incorporation in order to chime in on the conversation about how becoming socially mobile in America may mean having a similar social experience as the African-American or minority middle class. The paper also suggests ways to better analyze the relationship between identity, integration, space, and generation in minority incorporation.

African immigrants in Canada: a profile of human capital, income and remittance behavior
Loxley, J., Sackey, H. A., & Khan, S. (2015).
Canadian Journal of Development Studies, 36(1), pp. 3-33
Canada is an important destination country for international migrants, including those from Africa. In 2011, the share of total immigrants in Canada from Africa was 13.6%, relatively more than the 11.9% from Europe, 5% from North and Central America, 4.9% from the Caribbean and Bermuda, and 4.3% from South America. In spite of the growing presence of African immigrants in Canada, very little effort has been made to examine Africa's human resources in Canada and the support they provide their families through remittances. This study addresses some of the research gaps by: examining the educational attainment of African immigrants and labor market outcomes; analyzing trends in bilateral remittances from Canada to Africa; investigating the determinants of remittance behavior for recent African immigrants in Canada; and examining the remittance channels, cost of remittances, and the policy implication for socio-economic development in Africa. The results of this study show that the brain drain in Africa has also been a brain drain for Canada. At the same time, Africa has benefited from remittances from immigrants in Canada, which are being used by households for investments in education, health, nutrition, and business, paving the way for socio-economic development.


African & American: West Africans in Post-Civil Rights America
By Marilyn Halter & Violet M. Showers Johnson
NYU Press (2014)
"African & American gives a valuable and much-needed voice to the African immigrant experience in America. Focusing on the divide between what it means to be an African and an American, Halter and Johnson reveal the historical complexity around these terms and explore how newcomers grapple with this reality in the contemporary world." Zain Abdullah, author of Black Mecca: The African Muslims of Harlem.

Black Mosaic: The Politics of Black Pan-Ethnic Diversity
By Candis W. Smith
NYU Press (2014)
The definition of "African American" is becoming more ambiguous with the influx of Afro-Latino, Afro-Caribbean, and African immigrants to the United States. Black Mosaic explores the effects of this demographic change on Black identity and Black politics in the U.S. Historically, Black Americans have found common ground politically, socially, and economically. Political attitudes and behaviors have evolved around their historical experiences with American Politics and American racism. Will new Black immigrants be politically influenced in the same way as those who have been in the United States for several generations? Will race be a site of coalition between Black immigrants and African Americans?

Young Children of Black Immigrants in America: Changing Flows, Changing Faces
By Randy Capps & Michael Fix
Brookings Institution Press (2012)
Black immigrants are making up an increasing share of the Black child population in the United States. However, first and second generation African immigrants are often an overlooked group. To better understand the changing Black child population, Young Children of Black Immigrants in America examines the health, well-being, school readiness, and academic achievement of children in Black immigrant families.

The African Diaspora in the United States and Europe: the Ghanaian experience
By John A. Arthur
Ashgate Publishing (2012)
With its dual focus on sociological and economic factors, The African Diaspora in the United States and Europe: the Ghanaian experience presents a thought-provoking investigation of African Diaspora by focusing on the stories of one community- the Ghanaians. Through his ethnographic research approach, Arthur offers an in-depth analysis of the Ghanaian immigrants' lives by exploring the factors that inform their migration to the U.S. and Europe, the formation of their social networks, the construction/reconstruction of their global identities, and the repatriation of their children. This book was strongly recommended as the representation of "a milestone in the field" by Isidore Okpewho, Binghamton University, USA.

African Diaspora Identities: Negotiating culture in transnational migration
By John A. Arthur
Lexington Books (2011)
Immigration is a complex process, which not only involves a transition of cultures, environments, and the languages spoken, but also has a significant impact on immigrants' identities. How do African immigrants reconstruct their own identities in the United States? How do they perceive their own ethnic identities? How do they reposition themselves in transnational settings? African Diaspora Identities provides insights into the intricate issues of identity formation and reconstruction of African immigrants in the American society. It is recommended as a "must-read for any student of migration" by Joseph Takougang, University of Cincinnati.

Across the Atlantic: African Immigrants in the United States Diaspora
By Emmanuel Yewah & Dimeji Togunde
Common Ground Publishing (2010)
Across the Atlantic examines the experiences of African immigrants who have come to the United States in the post-World War II era. What are the factors that cause Africans to immigrate to the United States? Does their immigration affect their home communities in Africa? In the United States, how do they adapt? Do they maintain their cultural identities? And what is the impact on their new communities in the United States?

The New African Diaspora
By Isidore Okpewho & Nkiru Nzegwu
Indiana University Press (2009)
The New African Diaspora includes a variety of studies conducted by scholars who participated in a symposium held by the Department of Africana Studies at Binghamton University in April, 2006. Its chapters are grouped into four parts based on the sequence of immigration, from leaving home, to relocation and redefinition, to a measure of success, and eventually to transnational perspectives. Taking into consideration the social, political, economic, and educational factors, The New African Diaspora analyzes the reasons for African immigration and depicts the African immigrant experience in the West. What makes this book unique is that most of the chapter contributors are immigrants themselves. Their inside perspective sheds light on African immigrants' psychological journey and attitudes regarding their challenges and successes in the host countries.

The integration outcomes of U.S. refugees: Successes and challenges
By Randy Capps, Kathleen Newland, Susan Fratzke, Susanna Groves, Michael Fix, Margie McHugh, & Gregory Auclair
Migration Policy Institute (2015)
Refugees resettling in the U.S. are increasingly diverse in terms of nationality, language, and educational level, creating new challenges for the largest refugee resettlement program in the world. The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) analyzed the economic integration of the ten largest nationality groups that resettled in the U.S. in fiscal years 2002-2013. Many refugees actually achieved ambitious government targets, but the level of economic integration varied by nationality and it was often related to pre-departure factors, such as education, literacy, and English language proficiency. The results of this analysis demonstrated that Somali refugees had some of the lowest levels of education, English language proficiency, and native language literacy. Without this educational foundation, Somali refugees were less likely to be employed, and 79% of Somali refugees lived in low-income households. To improve long-term economic outcomes, the U.S. may have to shift its focus from short-term employment to a long-term strategy that emphasizes education and training prior to resettlement.

Follow Professor Egmont on Twitter @wegmont 

EDITORS: W. Egmont, K. Kalliontzi, J. Margolis, K. Medeiros, J. Ozieblowski, & Q. Zhang