Comparing the Educational Attainment of Foreign-Born and Native-Born Blacks in the U.S.

The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit think tank in Washington, D.C., dedicated to analysis of the movement of people worldwide. Founded in 2001 by Demetrios G. Papademetriou and Kathleen Newland, MPI grew out of the International Migration Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

The MPI recently issued a new report showing differences in the educational attainment of the parents in African- and Caribbean-immigrant families compared to the education of parents in native-born African American families. A third of all fathers of Black immigrant families in the United States have a four-year college degree compared to 18 percent of families in which the father is a native-born African American. Some 26 percent of Black immigrant families have a mother who is college-educated compared to 15 percent of African American families.

If we break down the figures further by region of origin, we find that 45 percent of fathers of immigrant families from Africa have a college degree. Whereas 26 percent of mothers in African immigrant families are college educated. For Caribbean families, about 23 percent of both fathers and mothers have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Black immigrant families from Nigeria are the most likely to be college educated. Some 73 percent of fathers and 53 percent of mothers in Nigeria immigrant families have completed college. For Black immigrant families from Jamaica, 29 percent of fathers and 24 percent of the mothers are college educated, rates far higher than is the case for African American families.

At the low end of the spectrum, just 14 percent of fathers and 5 percent of the mothers in Somali immigrant families are college educated.

The report, Changing Demography and Circumstances for Young Black Children in African and Caribbean Immigrant Families, can be downloaded by clicking here.


Comments (7)

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  1. Shawn says:

    The study’s findings are very misleading. One would expected the priviliged class of one society to out-perform the general population of another society. Given the difficulty in immigrating from Africa and Caribbean, only the elite are able to come the the US in large numbers or to have their children educated here. To compare this group to ALL African Americans is irresponsible scholarship.

    • Abe says:

      We are not all privileged. It’s the intrinsic understanding from a young age that a good education provides better opportunities. It’s the same reason you rarely see African born dealing drugs [in their neighborhoods]

      • Jaconda says:

        So, they deal in other neighborhoods? And it’s acceptable because they are destroying a community that is not their own? This is all very elitist. It needs to stop. I am really chagrin to participate in “othering,” however, pointing out the limitations in people’s perceptions of themselves is the only effective tool I have found to cause pause with the proliferation of the rhetoric espoused in this article and the comments of folks like Abe. So, before you compare native-born blacks with Africans in the US, kindly consider that the African continent was colonized by Europeans, the literacy and poverty rates are extreme (Nigeria has a 50% literacy rate), and the political corruption is extensive. Folks should work on their planks before worrying about the specks of others.

      • Friedrich Kustaa says:

        Yes, I agree that many African and Caribbean immigrants like myself don’t come from privileged or elite backgrounds, but they come from families that strongly emphasize the importance of attainment of educational and professional credentials as a way to do well in life. This is not different for African-Americans because those who do well in school also tend to come from families that strongly stress the importance of education and professional attainment.

    • Friedrich Kustaa says:

      Yes, I agree with you. I am an African immigrant who is not member of the ruling elite. I came to this country to pursue my post-secondary education during the era of Apartheid in Namibia and South Africa. I completed my BA at a four-year college in Minnesota. Without the scholarship that I received from the Lutheran World Federation, I could not have afforded to go to that expensive school. Then, before I became a professor, I received UN scholarships that enabled me to complete two MAs and a Ph.D. Therefore, I think that people like myself cannot compare ourselves with ordinary non-privileged African-American person when it comes to educational and professional attainment although we may come from similar socio-economic backgrounds.

  2. Celesti says:

    This is a comparison of apples and oranges. For a true comparison, you need to compare the number of parents who hold college degrees in immigrants’ native countries to the number of native-born African Americans. Converseley, you would need to compare the number of native-born African Americans in Nigeria and other countries from which blacks emmigrate to America. A comparison of a subset of blacks from other countries to the entirety of native-born American blacks is problematic.

  3. Jaconda says:

    I agree completely with Shawn and Celesti. I also question the rationale and motivation behind this study. Is it to further propagage a sense of otherness among African Americans? Where is the comparison to whites?

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