What Explains the Increasing Trend in African Emigration to the U.S.?



In this study, data from the U.S. State Department on visas issued abroad and information from other sources are used to examine trends in African emigration to the U.S. The results suggest that, on average, moderate increases in African Gross Domestic Product between 1992 and 2007 had a buffering effect on emigration trends. Yet, emigration to the U.S. increased much faster from the poorest than wealthiest countries in Africa. Contrary to expectations, larger emigration increases were found in Africa’s non-English than English-speaking countries. Despite the increasing overall trend, however, critical differences were observed in the impacts of specific types of flows. For example, overall trends were driven by increases in Diversity Visa migration, refugee movements, and the migration of immediate relatives. However, significant declines were observed in employment-related emigration from Africa to the U.S. The results further suggest that impact of trends in African fertility, urbanization, and phone use are circumscribed to specific contexts and types of migration flows. The findings, therefore, provide an empirical basis for concluding that the dynamics of African migration to the U.S. are becoming increasingly more complex.