Sub-Saharan African Immigrants in the U.S. Are Often More Educated Than Those in Top European Destinations

by Mark Hugo Lopez; Monica Anderson; Stefan Cornibret

Apr 24, 2018

As the annual number of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa to both the United States and Europe has grown for most years this decade, a Pew Research Center analysis of 2015 U.S. Census Bureau and Eurostat data finds that sub-Saharan immigrants in the U.S. tend to be more highly educated than those living in the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Portugal – Europe's historically leading destinations among sub-Saharan immigrants.


In the U.S., 69% of sub-Saharan immigrants ages 25 and older in 2015 said they had at least some college experience. In the same year, the share in the UK who reported some college experience was 49%, while it was lower still in France (30%), Portugal (27%) and Italy (10%).


Immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa living in the U.S. are also somewhat more likely to be employed than their counterparts in Portugal, France and Italy. In 2015, 92.9% of U.S.-based sub-Saharan immigrants said they had a paying job, compared with 84.9% in Portugal, 83.7% in France and 80.3% in Italy. Meanwhile, the share of sub-Saharan immigrants in the UK who are working (91.5%) was nearly equal to that in the U.S.


The U.S., UK, France, Italy and Portugal are some of the top destinations of sub-Saharan migrants living outside of sub-Saharan Africa. As of 2015, however, more than two-thirds (69%) of migrants from sub-Saharan countries actually lived in other sub-Saharan African countries.


Together, the U.S., UK, France, Italy and Portugal were home to more than half (57%) of the sub-Saharan migrant population living outside sub-Saharan Africa in 2015, according to global migrant population estimates from the United Nations. And the four European countries featured in this report accounted for roughly three-quarters (74%) of all sub-Saharan immigrants living in EU countries, Norway and Switzerland in the same year.


Historically, sub-Saharan immigrants have made up small shares of the total population in the U.S., UK, France, Italy and Portugal – 3% or less in each country, as of 2015. But annual migration to the U.S. and Europe from sub-Saharan Africa rose most years this decade. In all, well more than a million sub-Saharans have migrated to the U.S. and to EU countries, Norway and Switzerland since 2010. Migration pressures for some sub-Saharans to leave Africa are expected to continue as the continent's population grows, young people struggle to find employment and protracted conflicts continue.

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