Posted on August 8, 2008

African Community Grows, But Opportunities Do Not

Vanessa Bauzá, Chicago Tribune, August 6, 2008

The African community has grown faster than any other immigrant group in the state, but although many emigres are well educated they’ve been unable to get jobs that match their professional backgrounds, according to a report released Wednesday.


“When you talk to Africans driving cabs in Chicago with master’s degrees you wonder what are the reasons you see this shocking disparity between education and professional status. It reflects a certain attitude toward Africa, that there’s not much coming out of Africa.”

The report surveyed 160 African immigrants in Illinois and found that 53 percent have bachelor’s or graduate degrees, a figure similar to 2006 statewide census estimates. The average income among those surveyed was $44,000 a year. Compared to other workers with similar education, Africans are underemployed in jobs that do not take advantage of their skills, according to the report. The disparity often leads to frustration.

“Their expectation was high, and they are really disappointed,” said Erku Yimer, executive director of the Ethiopian Community Association of Chicago. “Some of them want to go back (to Africa) but the situation is worse there. At least they can survive here.”

Africans are among the smallest immigrant groups in Illinois, with an estimated population of 43,000. Still, the African community grew 63 percent between 2000 and 2006 compared with 16 percent for Latin American immigrants and 22 percent for Asian immigrants, according to 2006 census estimates.