Education & Citizenship

African Immigrants - Above Average in Higher Education

In 2007, 38% of black African immigrants held a four-year college degree or higher, versus 27% of the U.S. 25+ population.

Foreign-born residents from Africa tend to have above-average levels of educational attainment compared to the overall foreign-born population, in part because many of these immigrants are coming to the U.S. to continue pursuing a degree.

Barriers to Educational Attainment

Higher educational attainment and English fluency are not as prevalent among immigrants from French-speaking West Africa.

They often speak only the Creole dialects of French or Arabic. In order to be eligible for the Diversity Program (“green card lottery”), potential immigrants must prove that they have a high school degree, or two years’ experience in a job that requires two or more years of training.

Immigrants from Liberia are less likely than average Americans to have a college degree, which is presumably true of other refugee origin countries as well.

Citizenship and Voting

Because many West African immigrants are educated persons coming here temporarily to earn money or obtain a degree, they are less likely than other immigrant groups to seek citizenship. As a result, they are less likely than other immigrant groups to register to vote.

Among African Immigrants as a whole, though not West Africans specifically:

  • 21% are unauthorized immigrants (vs. 30% of all U.S. immigrants)
  • 25% entered as refugees (vs. 7% overall)
  • 26% are legal permanent residents (vs. 28% overall)
  • 26% are naturalized U.S. citizens (vs. 32% overall)
  • 2% are legal temporary residents (vs. 3% overall)

By this count, only one in four African immigrants (again, not West Africans specifically) is eligible to register to vote as a naturalized citizen.