How Sub-Saharan African Immigrants Contribute to the U.S. Economy

Between 2010 and 2015, the number of African immigrants in America more than doubled— rising from roughly 723,000 people to more than 1.7 million.

Power of the Purse: How Sub-Saharan Africans Contribute to the U.S. Economy suggests that African immigrants punch well above their weight in many respects. These immigrants naturalize at high rates, they attain higher levels of education than the overall U.S. population as a whole, and are more likely to have earned their degree in a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, or STEM, field. They also make meaningful contributions to several vital sectors of the economy – including healthcare – where employers have persistent challenges finding enough workers.

The report, Power of the Purse, finds:

  • African immigrant households contribute billions of dollars to the U.S. economy through their spending and tax payments. African immigrants earned $55.1 billion in 2015. Their households paid $10.1 billion in federal taxes and $4.7 billion in state and local taxes – giving African immigrants an estimated spending power of more than $40.3 billion that year.
  • African immigrants boast higher levels of education than the overall U.S. population, with a particular focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. 40 percent of African immigrants have at least a bachelor’s degree—making them 30 percent more likely to achieve that level of education than the U.S. population overall. Of this group, about one in three, or 33.4 percent, have STEM degrees, training heavily in demand by today’s employers.
  • African immigrants are well positioned to fill gaps in our workforce as the baby boomers retire. In 2015, almost three out of every four African immigrants, or 73.4 percent, were in the prime of their working years, falling between the ages of 25 and 64. Less than half of the U.S.-born population fell into that age bracket.
  • African immigrants make meaningful contributions to our economy as entrepreneurs. In 2015, the country was home to over 90,000 foreign-born entrepreneurs from Africa. A large share of this group worked in the broader transportation sector, and 5,700 were working in real estate and accounting industries.
  • A large share of African immigrants is working in the healthcare sector, a segment of our economy that is already facing unprecedented levels of demand. In 2015, the number of open healthcare positions in our economy far exceeded the number of unemployed workers with experience in the field.3 This makes the contribution of African immigrants particularly important. In 2015, almost 30 percent of Africans in the workforce were employed in the healthcare and services industry, compared to just 13 percent of the U.S.-born working population overall.

Read the full research report here.

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