On average, African immigrants are better educated than people born in the U.S. or the immigrant population as a whole.
Lots of the news from sub-Saharan Africa is about war, famine, poverty or political upheaval. So it’s understandable if many Americans think most Africans who immigrate to the United States are poorly educated and desperate.
Research tells another story.
While many are refugees, large numbers are beneficiaries of the diversity-visa program aimed at boosting immigration from underrepresented nations. And on average, African immigrants are better educated than people born in the U.S. or the immigrant population as a whole.
“It’s a population that’s very diverse in its educational, economic and English proficiency profile,” said Jeanne Batalova, a senior policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., and co-author of a report last year on sub-Saharan African immigrants in the U.S.
Most Read Stories
Overall, their numbers are small compared with other immigrant groups but have risen significantly in recent years. The U.S. immigrant population from sub-Saharan Africa (49 countries with a total population of more than 1.1 billion) grew from 723,000 to more than 1.7 million between 2010 and 2015, according to a new report by New American Economy, a Washington, D.C.-based research and advocacy group. Still, they make up just half a percent of the U.S. population.
About 22 percent of African immigrants are refugees, according to Andrew Lim, associate director of research at New American Economy.
At the same time, the diversity-visa program — also known as the visa lottery — has opened the door to immigrants from more peaceful places. Of the sub-Saharan immigrants who have become legal permanent residents, 17 percent came through the program, compared with 5 percent of the total U.S. immigrant population, according to Batalova.
Applicants to the program must have completed the equivalent of a U.S. high-school education or have at least two years of recent experience in any number of occupations, including accountant, computer-support specialist, orthodontist or dancer.
Batalova’s research found that of the 1.4 million who are 25 or older, 41 percent have bachelor’s degrees, compared with 30 percent of all immigrants and 32 percent of the U.S.-born population. Of the 19,000 U.S. immigrants from Norway — a country President…