African immigrants living in the US State of Minnesota are losing ground economically, according to the US Census Bureau. In it’s most recent annual American Community Survey, one section describes some 80,000 Minnesotans. It says the median family income for Somalis, Ethiopians, Kenyans and others from East Africa has dropped more than 36 percent. Barbara Ronningen of the Minnesota State Demographer’s office told Voice of America English to Africa reporter Cole Mallard that the problem exists “in large part [because of] the recession in 2001 and the fact that the recovery from the recession has been slow and [has] not created a great number of jobs.”
She adds that since 2000, some 21,000 immigrants have come to the state and make up about ten percent of the black population.
Ronningen also says immigrants take a while to get settled, and often they are refugees who “come with nothing,” which suppresses income.
She says Minnesota may seem to stand out from other states because the population is not very diverse, but it has attracted large numbers of Africans because of very strong charitable organizations that have helped refugees get jobs and housing. She says this was especially true in the late 1990s when the economy was strong and was creating jobs at twice the rate of population growth. She also says immigrants tend to come where there are others of the same ethnic group.
Ronningen points out that the same reduced income has hit a large influx of Latinos who came to Minnesota at about the same time, in early 2000.
Ronningen says the fact that immigrants fail to get ahead “is a warning sign for the future” and that if they fail to achieve as much as they can, “we’re going to have real problems in Minnesota” because of lower high school graduation rates and higher poverty rates. She says although the African immigrants make up an increasing percentage of the labor force, they “are working, but they are failing to get ahead.”
The Minnesota state employee says she feels it’s important to provide guidance to immigrant children to encourage them to graduate from high school and go on to higher education so they can be productive members of the state’s economy, “We really have to address the disparity between educational attainment and income that we’re seeing between minority populations and the white non-Latino population.” She says this applies to the whole country, “and if that means putting more effort and money into education – or whatever it requires – I think we’re going to have to look at that very closely.”