Human Capital Loss: African Migration to the US


Black African immigrants are among the best-educated US immigrants. African immigrants are disproportionately admitted through the diversity program — which requires immigrants to have at least a high school degree or two years of experience in an occupation that requires at least two years of training to perform. High travel costs could partially explain the relatively high share of skilled Africans among US immigrants. Relatively few Africans come to the country as unauthorized migrants, and the unauthorized tend to be less well educated.
The United States benefits from this disproportionately high-skilled African migration. In 2000, according to data from the World Bank’s Global Skilled Migration Database, the United States was the destination for 37 percent of all African skilled migrants to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, versus 15 percent of all migrants. Canada and Australia similarly attracted a much higher share of high-skilled than low-skilled African migrants; by contrast, the United Kingdom, France, and other European countries were destinations for a greater share of low-skilled African migrants.

The over representation of the highly skilled among US immigrants is particularly striking for several of Africa’s largest source countries. The United States was the destination for 59 percent of Nigeria’s high skilled immigrants along with 47 percent of those from Ghana and 29 percent from Kenya. For all three countries, the US share of skilled migrants exceeded its share of all migrants and appears to have come at the expense of the United Kingdom, which disproportionately received low-skilled migrants from these three Anglophone countries.

The over representation of the highly skilled can be seen in the relatively high share of Black African immigrants with at least a four-year college degree. In 2007, 27 percent of the US population aged 25 and older had a four-year degree or more; 10 percent had a master’s, doctorate, or professional degree. Immigrants overall were just as likely as natives to hold a four-year degree, but the share of Black African immigrants with a college education was significantly higher (38 percent). Immigrants from several Anglophone African countries were among the best educated: a majority of Black immigrants from Nigeria, Cameroon, Uganda, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe had at least a four-year degree.

Black immigrants from Egypt, where the official language is Arabic, were also among the best educated. While Black immigrants from most African nations are better educated than the overall US population, immigrants from a few — mostly refugee — origin countries have far lower levels of formal schooling. Black immigrants from Eritrea, Liberia, Cape Verde, and Somalia are all less likely to have a college degree than the general US population, and more than half the immigrants from Cape Verde and Somalia have just a high school degree or even less education. Immigrants from Eritrea, Liberia, and Somalia are disproportionately refugees.

Source: Cape/McGabe/Fix




  1. There is a better life in the US. It is a no brainer why people leave Africa for America. They may not get the jobs that they are qualified for e.g a doctor can work as a CNA but it is the USD that we all want.

Comments are closed.