An article doing the rounds on my Facebook feed claims that African immigrants are the most successful group in the United States when it comes to academic achievement. African-born immigrants are more likely to be college educated than any other immigrant group, it says.

Africans have the highest educational attainment rates of any immigrant group in the United States with higher levels of completion than the stereotyped Asian American model minority. It is not only the first generation that does well, as estimates indicate that a highly disproportionate percentage of black students at elite universities are African or the children of African immigrants. (source)

Their claim notes the source as "Census Bureau data by the Journal of Blacks in higher education", which I couldn't find a more specific resource for.

Are these statements otherwise verified? I can imagine African immigrants having the highest immigration demands of any group, but the statements still seem counter-intuitive considering funding issues for academia in large parts of Africa.

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    I'm trying, but Holy Conflicting Studies Batman! So far I've found articles both supporting and denying this claim. I'm going to try and drag out the data from the 2010 census as the source of truth for this question.
    – DenisS
    Commented May 4, 2017 at 14:06
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    ratio of student visas to all others might also be something to look at, if my guess for 'why' is plausible.
    – user36688
    Commented May 4, 2017 at 14:53
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    Funding issues for academia in Africa, may be the CAUSE of this. I am a engineering grad student, and our department has a ton of Iranian students. Way more than the population of Iran would suggest. Iran is not a great place for highly skilled and educated people, so they come here. If smart Africans don't have good opportunities in Africa, why not come to America? Commented May 4, 2017 at 15:05
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    The few African students I've known in Europe were brilliant. Not only what @BobTheAverage says, but also: reaching a top European or North American university despite the poor quality of university education in ones home country, could very well mean you need to be much smarter and more independent than when reaching the same coming from a country with very well-funded high quality education.
    – gerrit
    Commented May 4, 2017 at 15:12
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    @gerrit - it's likely even more pronouced in USA. To even get into US college, an immigrant from Africa must either come from educated elite in the first place; OR be extraordinary academically (to get scholarships); due to difficulty of immigrating from Africa to US.
    – user5341
    Commented May 5, 2017 at 14:08

1 Answer 1


The article you linked correctly restates the conclusions of an article published in the "news and views" section of a scientific journal. I am unable to tell if their conclusions are rigorously true, or simply due to how they chose to interpret the data. I am unable to find their original data source.

The original source of this claim comes from an article titled, African Immigrants in the United States are the Nation's Most Highly Educated Group, published in The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. Unfortunately, this article is behind a paywall.

The authors provide the following chart that shows that a higher percentage of African immigrants have a bachelors degree, than any of the other groups they examined. They provide a similar chart for graduate degrees. Both charts support the claim.

enter image description here

They cite the "US Census Bureau" as their source. That is very unhelpful. The most recent census when this article was published was the 1990 census. The article is about 2 pages long, and does little other than restate the census data. This google scholar search seems to suggest that it came from the "News and Views" section of the journal rather than the serious scientific section of the journal.

Conclusion Although the claim is consistent with my personal experience and common sense, I cannot tell if any rigorous data supports their conclusion. If this study is based on rigorous data, that data is at least 20 years old. Hopefully my answer will be helpful to someone who can give you a better answer.

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    "The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education" Yeeeeeah, sure they're objective. Until they provide any credible source I'd discard the article
    – Hobbamok
    Commented Sep 13, 2018 at 10:59
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    @Hobbamok If you have something substantial to contribute to the discussion, we welcome those contributions. Commented Sep 13, 2018 at 14:56

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