The United States has always been a country of immigrants since its founding days. During the Industrial Revolution of the 1880’s to 1910 the wave of immigrants from Europe made the country have a large white majority. The push back against immigrants during World War I and the Great Depression mostly sealed U.S. borders for decades which only began to change meaningfully in the 1960’s.
The Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965 removed the quota system that capped immigration from each country, greatly benefiting non-European countries. While U.S. immigration in the 1960’s was split 75%, 9% and 5% for Europe, Latin America and Asia, respectively, by the 1980’s the continents of origin were 23%, 44% and 26%, respectively.
Africa has not been a major source of immigrants over the past 100 years. In 2018, just over 2 million of the country’s 44.7 million immigrants came from sub-Saharan Africa. While small, this figure has grown rapidly, from 691,000 in 2000 and 130,000 in 1980. The largest number of immigrants comes from Nigeria, the African country with the largest population, followed by Ethiopia, Ghana and Kenya.
Many of these immigrants live in the large states, including New York, California, Texas, Florida, Ohio and New Jersey. Others have settled into smaller states including Georgia, Connecticut, Maryland and Virginia.
But nowhere has the African immigrant population been felt as dramatically as in Minnesota.
Exhibit 1: Black Population, by Place of Birth
As seen on Exhibit 1, overall in the United States, Black people account for 13.2% of the U.S.-born population and 9.5% of the foreign-born population. In southern states like South Carolina, Louisiana and Mississippi, Blacks make up a significant percentage of the population, almost all being born in the United States. In several northern states like Ohio, Washington, Connecticut and New York, the Black population born in Africa is significant, surpassing the overall mix of U.S.-born Black people in the state.
In Minnesota, the immigrant population is driven by Blacks from Africa, accounting for six times the percentage of U.S.-born blacks in the state. While Africans account for under ten per cent of the overall US immigrant population, they account for 27.4% of the immigrant population in Minnesota, nearly three times the rate.
Exhibit 2: Foreign-born Population in Minnesota by Continent
Exhibit 2 shows how Africa’s share of the Minnesota immigrant community has grown from 4.3% in 1990 to 27.2% in 2018. Since 2000, it is the only region which has grown its share, reversing the trend even for immigrants from Latin America. It is the only state in the country with this phenomenon.
African-born immigrants have moved to Minnesota at a scale not seen anywhere else in the United States. The percentage far surpasses US-born Blacks and eclipses Latin American and European immigrants. In 2018, they helped elect the first immigrant from Africa to Congress, Ilhan Omar from Somalia. Will their numbers impact future elections as well?
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