Census Department estimates of immigrants - particularly those without documentation - are traditionally unreliable. For example, the 1990 census counted 2,287 Senegalese, even though various studies showed that at least 10,000 were living in New York City alone. The 2000 census reports between 511,000 and 746,000 sub-Saharan Africans, with West Africans (36 percent) in the lead, followed by East Africans (24 percent). About 6 percent of the sub-Saharan Africans are South Africans, many of whom are white. A small percentage of East Africans are of Asian origin.
Nationwide, 1.7 million people claim sub-Saharan ancestry. Africans now represent 6 percent of all the immigrants to the United States. It is a recent phenomenon: about 57 percent immigrated between 1990 and 2000. People of sub-Saharan African ancestry now represent almost 5 percent of the African American community. Those among them who were actually born in Africa form 1.6 percent of the black population in the country. Over the past ten years, this group has increased 134 percent.
Africans are dispersed throughout the country, and in no state do they number fewer than 150. New York has the largest African community, followed by California, Texas, and Maryland. However, the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Rhode Island have the highest percentages of Africans in their total populations. With 136,000 officially - African associations and scholars of immigration claim higher numbers - recorded immigrants, Nigerians are the number one sub-Saharan African community; Ethiopians (69,500) and Ghanaians (65,600) come far behind.
Although media coverage of African immigrants is usually devoted to the refugees, they represent a minority of the African community. From 1990 to 2001, 101,000 African refugees -
10 percent of all refugees who entered the country - were admitted to the United States. More than 40,000 were Somalis, and close to 21,000 came from Ethiopia, while 18,500 arrived from the Sudan.
Africans are highly urban: 95 percent live in a metropolitan area, and like most immigrants, they tend to settle where other countrymen have preceded them and established the basis of a community. Attracted by commercial opportunities, a few Senegalese put down roots in New York in the early 1980s; today, most Senegalese can still be found there. The largest number of Nigerians reside in oil-rich Texas - their homeland is a major oil producer, and they have experience in that industry. Washington, D.C., the headquarters of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and other international organizations has attracted numerous African professionals.
The Twin Cities, Minneapolis and St. Paul, have America's largest Somali population, estimated at 30,000. Many are refugees, relocated directly from camps in East Africa. But the overwhelming majority - attracted by job opportunities, a desire for family reunification, and educational possibilities - are now coming in a secondary migration from Texas, Virginia, and California.
Because sub-Saharan Africans tend to live in neighborhoods whose residents have high incomes and college educations, they are largely segregated from African Americans and Caribbeans. Although this trend is declining somewhat, it still holds true in New York and Atlanta, two cities where Africans are quite numerous.