Friday, December 27, 2013

"Do African immigrants make the smartest Americans? .."

I hope you had a great start of the holiday season. I have written the following in reaction to a thread of discussion in an online African Diaspora discussion forum. It is re-posted here with some modification.  I refrained from posting what others in the online discussion forum wrote without getting their authorization but the underlying topic was what was stated in the following articles.

In graduate school, I wrote a paper which gave an overview of recent immigration from Africa and its impact on U.S. in general and on Maryland in particular. In the paper I cited a study which also affirmed that Black immigrants from Africa or the Caribbean are the most educated, taking into account that majority of them have completed high school, significant percentage of them have some college education and also some have degrees (Bachelor's, Masters even PhDs).  This was in the 1990s before the H1B visa program was introduced in the U.S. and many Asian (Indian & Chinese mainly) with advanced degrees such as computer programmers, engineers etc. started arriving in the U.S., making that immigrant group the most educated. Before those Asian professionals started arriving in the U.S., the largest group of Asian immigrants were the 'Boat People' who arrived in the 80s from Vietnam Cambodia & Laos region and which were mostly from rural background with little education like Latino immigrants from Central America region.
The studies I cited in the paper also illustrate one disturbing fact
about recent Black (African/Caribbean) immigrant community group. This is the only group that shows negative inter-generational mobility according to these studies. Sociologists often  notice positive inter-generational mobility when they study a certain segment of society through certain time period. What that means in short is if large members of the first generation are for example illiterate or with little education, and the second or subsequent generations are educated even to a level of completing school, that by itself shows a positive trajectory of inter-generational mobility. Unfortunately according to some studies, the second generation or kids born to African/Black immigrants did not attain the education level their first generation parents had, hence the negative trend. By the way, when they say members of the first generation are educated it does not mean that they are employed in the U.S. according to their higher education. The studies highlight the problems such as dropping out before completing high school or not joining colleges preferring instead to take lower paying jobs among majority members of second generation African/black immigrants. They offered some explanations why this phenomena is happening. The existence of distinct or lack thereof such identity (how the young generation see themselves) is one of the explanations given among other reasons.

Yes, as the articles cited above indicate, from all minority students who are admitted to Ivy League colleges, 50 percent or more are kids born to African/Caribbean parents. A 2007 report show that "African students constituted nearly 40 percent of the black students admitted to Ivy League schools."
Also there is some evidence that kids with Black African/Caribbean immigrants perform academically at K12 level as good as the levels achieved by White and Asians students. By the way, I support the collection of such data in schools with those important breakdowns within racial backgrounds. However, as I said earlier, majority of kids born to African/Caribbean immigrant parents do not make it to colleges, some even not completing schools. We just have to look around to members of our extended family to see this ugly trend. How many kids born to Ethiopian parents we know who have joined the low paying work force right after high school or even before finishing high school? I think the negative inter-generational mobility is un-natural and we Ethiopians and the larger African/Caribbean community should make efforts towards reversing this unnatural trend by giving special attention to our kids lives.