Higher Ed a Hallmark of Sub-Saharan African Immigrants to the U.S.

While sub-Saharan Africans tend to represent small population shares in their adoptive countries, immigrants to the U.S. are often more educated than their European counterparts. Combined tendencies of the native population along with U.S. immigration policies jointly contribute to the situation.

Typically representing 3 percent or less of the overall population in the U.S., U.K., France, Italy and Portugal, according to a Pew Research report, 69 percent of sub-Saharan immigrants in the U.S. aged 25 or older reported “at least some college experience” in 2015. By comparison, the same demographic in the U.K. that year reported “some college experience” at a rate of 49 percent. Numbers in France, Portugal and Italy came in at 30 percent, 27 percent and 10 percent, respectively. Notably, sub-Saharan Africans in the 25-and-older age group also are more likely than the overall native-born population in the U.S. to have at least some college experience– 69 percent compared to 63 percent.

Generally, those Africans who hold higher education levels tend toward migration more strongly than the least educated Africans. What’s more, Africans with higher education levels gravitate toward more developed countries, though specific destinations vary.

For sub-Saharan Africans who immigrated to the U.S. between 2010 and 2016, around 25 percent entered through the country’s diversity program, which requires at least a high school education. As a result, only 11 percent of the demographic hold less than a high school education.

Pew researchers also draw a correlation between colonial history and the flow of sub-Saharan immigration into specific countries. With language as a particularly strong influencing factor, immigrants living in the U.K., France and Portugal often were born in countries ruled by the European states. Most of the sub-Saharan immigrants living in both the U.S. and the U.K., for instance, hail from countries with English as the primary language.

Six of the biggest 10 source countries for sub-Saharan African immigrants– Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Tanzania– speak English as at least 1 of the primary languages.

The sub-Saharan African population living in the U.S. totals more than 1.5 immigrants as of 2015. However, approximately 1 in 7 ( around 250,000 individuals ) within the group are considered unauthorized.