No Longer Sojourners: The Complexities of Racial Ethnic Identity, Gender, and Generational Outcomes for Sub-Saharan Africans in the USA

By Rivers, Natasha M. | International Journal of Population Research, January 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

No Longer Sojourners: The Complexities of Racial Ethnic Identity, Gender, and Generational Outcomes for Sub-Saharan Africans in the USA


Rivers, Natasha M., International Journal of Population Research


Natasha M. Rivers 1

Recommended by Eric Fong

1, Center for Studies of Demography and Ecology (CSDE), The University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA

Received 29 November 2011; Accepted 5 March 2012

This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

1. Introduction

International migration flows from Africa to the United States have been steadily increasing since the 1980s, with noticeable gains after 1990 [1-3]. Terrazas [1] states "The number of African immigrants in the United States grew 40-fold between 1960 and 2007, from 35,355 to 1.4 million. Most of this growth has taken place since 1990." As newly arriving Africans add to the growing foreign-born and American-born African populations in the USA, it is important to note that, first, the moves and settlement are more permanent today than in previous decades, and second, there are important gender, racial, and generational outcomes that impact how these groups relate to both continents over time in particular ways. Research suggests one essential way is that migrants are sending financial capital back to African nations [4-6]. Another recent trend shows that transnational relationships develop for the older migrants, but that the more recent African descendents, 1.5 and second generation, prefer to stay in the USA This outcome is related to integration and assimilation experiences.

Research conducted on newly arriving African immigrant groups and their adjustment and integration in the USA is both urgent and necessary. As the number of sub-Saharan Africans increases in the USA, and becomes semipermanent or permanent residents, there will be an increase in American-born African children. These children are socialised in school systems in USA. How sub-Saharan African children acculturate and are accepted at their schools and by their peers may influence how they identify themselves and perform in education and later in life. Assessing current literature on the integration of 1.5 and 2nd generation blacks from the Caribbean sheds light on the similarities and differences for those arriving from sub-Saharan Africa, and the younger generations growing up in the USA.

This study uses the findings from 24 structured interviews and focus group session of six participants to explore racial ethnic identity, the role of gender, and generational outcomes with newly arriving sub-Saharan African immigrants, 1.5 and 2nd generation participants, to (a) explore the complexities of racial ethnic identity formation, (b) to assess generational outcomes as they pertain to the sub-Saharan African population in the USA, and (c) to evaluate the role of gender in terms of education outcomes and integration. The sub-Saharan African immigrant countries represented in this study are from Nigerian, Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Ghana, The Democratic Republic of Congo, and Somalia. The most populous groups in this sample were from Nigeria and Ethiopia; this result is also comparable to national data. The top five countries of origin for African countries are from Nigeria, Egypt, and Ethiopia with Nigerians making up the largest percent at 13.1 percent [1]. Previous research confirms there are many African immigrants coming with and obtaining college degrees in the USA. However, not all African immigrants are coming with higher education nor the pursuit of it. After the 1990 Immigration Law, also responsible for enacting the Diversity Visa lottery, there has been a bifurcated flow of skilled and unskilled immigrants and refugees from Africa. Those sampled in this study were highly educated and for many their race did not hinder their education attainment, but ethnicity may have been a factor in how much education they were choosing to obtain. For example, certain cultural attributes of ethnic groups in Africa pushed education in the origin country and even more so in the USA Some respondents felt African Americans did not take advantage of the "free" education offered in American schools, and for the respondents unaware of the history of the African American experience in terms of access to institutions of education and employment made generalizations about this racial group and in turn felt they needed to distance themselves from the negative stereotypes that remain till today. …

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