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Arab American Demographics
   




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Arab American Demographics

Arab-Americans Well-Educated, Diverse, Affluent & Highly Entrepreneurial 
Over 4 Million Americans Trace Ancestry to Arab Countries

By Samia El-Badry

The vast majority of Arab-Americans are citizens of the United States. They are very much like other Americans, except younger, more educated, more affluent and more likely to own a business. Like any other immigrant group, Arab-Americans want to enjoy America's riches while preserving the important parts of their native culture.

Though Arab-Americans are the least-studied ethnic group in the United States, they receive considerable publicity associated with political and economic events, a good example of which has been the intense focus on the community in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. While this attention may be of grave political and diplomatic importance, it overshadows Arab-Americans' financial and social impact in the United States. 
More importantly, such attention - including the current focus on the community - points out a longstanding problem: Very little is actually publicized and discussed about the make-up of the community. The lack of information, coupled with the media's tendency to use broad strokes to associate Arab-Americans with Arabs in the Middle East, has at times put the community in a defensive position. This article, which is based on the 1990 U.S. Census (which is the most recent available information) addresses the lack of information by providing a demographic and economic picture of the community.


Counting Arab-Americans

  • The 1990 U.S. Census found 870,000 Americans who list "Arab" as one of their top two ancestries. This census definition is inconsistent, however, and not necessarily reliable. Before 1920, census records lumped Arabs together with Turks, Armenians, and other non-Arabic speaking people. Moreover, until recently, non-Syrian Asian Arabs were counted as "other Asians," and others categorized as "other Africans." Palestinians, the main postwar group, were counted as refugees, Israelis or nationals of their last country of residence.
  • If the census undercount were adjusted and if Arab-Americans filled out census forms, their number today might be as large as three million.
  • Census data show that 82 percent of Arab-Americans are U.S. citizens, with 63 percent born in the United States. Fifty-four percent of Arab-Americans are men, compared with 49 percent of the total U.S. population. This is partly because men of all nationalities typically immigrate before women do.
  • The Arab-American population as a whole is quite young; again, probably because younger people are more likely to immigrate. Many Arab-Americans are in their childbearing years, or are native-born children or teenagers.
  • In general, Arab-Americans are better educated than the average American. More of them attend college, and they earn masters or higher degrees at twice the average rate. Because they tend to be well educated and of working age, their work force rates are high. Eighty percent of Arab-Americans aged 16 and older were employed in 1990, compared with 60 percent of all Americans. In addition, only 7 percent of Arab-American entrepreneurs receive public assistance, compared with 1.7 percent of non-Arab-Americans.
  • In a volatile economy, with many large companies laying people off, Arab-Americans --who often are entrepreneurs or self-employed (14 percent versus 8 percent) -- may be less vulnerable to company layoffs.

 

Arab-American Entrepreneurs 

The sample includes all entrepreneurs 16 years of age or older. The census defines entrepreneurs as people who report themselves to be "self-employed" in their "own incorporated" or "non-incorporated business," "professional practice," or "farm." The 1990 census data show 73,829 Arab-American and 13,408,206 non-Arab-American entrepreneurs. Sixty-four percent of self-employed Arab-Americans own incorporated businesses, compared with only 27 percent of other entrepreneurs.  See Table 1



Citizenship and Immigration

Most Arab-American entrepreneurs are United States citizens, either by birth (47.0 percent) or naturalization (36.3 percent). Arab migration to the United States dates to the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Early migrants typically were Syrian or Lebanese merchants pursuing economic interests. Legal and political restrictions, the Depression and World War II curbed Arab migration between 1925 and 1948.


Arabs immigrating since World War II have tended to be from capitalist classes -- landed gentry and influential urban-based families -- replaced by new leadership in their various home countries. Many post-war immigrants were Palestinians displaced when Israel was established in 1948. Others were Egyptians whose land was appropriated by the Nasser regime; Syrians overthrown by revolutionaries; and Iraqi royalists fleeing the Republican regime. They often had attended Western or westernized schools, spoke fluent English, and identified themselves as members of a professional class.

 

 

 

 

 

Immigration from the Middle East increased dramatically in the late 1960s. By 1990, more than 75 percent of foreign-born Arab-Americans in had immigrated after 1964, compared with 52 percent of the total U.S. foreign-born population. The largest share (44 percent) of these arrived between 1975 and 1980, compared with 24 percent of all other foreign-born persons. 
Many Arabs immigrated during this period because of constant turmoil in the Middle East: the 1967 war, the civil war in Lebanon, the Kurd-Iraqi War of the 1960s and the violence in Iraq and Iran after 1978 all were trigger points. These coincided with the U.S. Immigration Act of 1965, which ended the quota system favoring immigrants from Europe. Many in this migration flow were Muslim, with even higher educations and incomes than their predecessors. This group's socioeconomic attainment pattern also greatly surpassed that of other immigrant group, and the American population as a whole. (See chart 2)

Religion 

Before 1960, as many as 90 percent of Arab immigrants were Christians, but recent immigrants are mostly Muslim. There were several prominent sects within the Christian population: Maronite Christians from Lebanon, Coptic Christians from Egypt and Chaldeans from Iraq.
The new immigrants settled in or near established Arab-American communities. The Detroit metropolitan region, especially Dearborn, attracted a steady stream of Arab immigrants after 1965 and may have the largest number of recent Arab immigrants. Most came from a variety of occupational backgrounds and found work in the auto industry or in other working-class employment, although not all Detroit Arabs sought such employment.

Christian Chaldeans, an Iraqi minority in a Muslim country, were among the first to take advantage of the 1965 immigration act. About one thousand lived in Detroit before passage of the act. After 1965 their numbers increased, until by 1974 they accounted for approximately one-seventh of Detroit's estimated 70,000 Arab-Americans. They opened grocery stores and established a reputation in that business similar to that of Korean grocers. By 1972 the Chaldeans were running about 278 stores in Detroit, and assisting others in the United States.
Another large Arab-American settlement in Brooklyn had attracted earlier Lebanese and Syrian migrations. Los Angeles lured many Coptic Christians from Egypt, part of the Egyptian immigrant wave after the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.


Where do We Live? 

Today, Arab-Americans -- like many minority groups -- are geographically concentrated. Over two-thirds live in ten states; one-third in California, New York, and Michigan. They are also more likely than other Americans to live in metropolitan areas. Thirty-six percent of Arab-Americans are found in ten cities, primarily Detroit, New York, or Los Angeles.

Entrepreneurs in the United States, whether or not they are Arab-American, most often live in the Pacific, South Atlantic, East North Central, or Mid-Atlantic regions. The regional distribution of Arab-American entrepreneurs is similar to that of non-Arab-American entrepreneurs.


Age, Sex and Marital Status 

Both groups of entrepreneurs - Arab-American and non-Arab-American -- tend to be between the ages of 25 and 44, and their age distributions are similar, with Arab-Americans generally younger than their non-Arab-American counterparts in most age categories, which may reflect the large proportion of self-employed Arab-American workers. Studies of other ethnic groups show that businesses tend to be established by newer immigrants, and Arab immigrants are, for the most part, young.

Entrepreneurship in the United States is male-dominated. Regardless of ancestry, 67.4 percent of entrepreneurs are male, 32.6 percent female. The ratio of male to female entrepreneurs is slightly larger for Arab-American than for non-Arab-American entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs of all ancestries in the United States are likely to be married (74.3 percent for non-Arab-Americans and 73.6 percent for Arab-Americans). It is interesting to note, however; that close to 16 percent of Arab-American entrepreneurs are never-married singles (compared to 11.7 percent for non-Arab-Americans).
(See  Chart 3)


Education 

In general, Arab-Americans are better educated than the average American. A greater percentage attends college, and those who earn master's degrees or higher do so at twice the national average. While most entrepreneurs in the United States have only a high school diploma or some college experience, Arab-American entrepreneurs are more likely to attend college and have college and postgraduate degrees.

These patterns remain the same when broken down by sex. Male entrepreneurs are more likely than females to have postgraduate degrees, however, and women entrepreneurs are more likely to have only a high school diploma or some college experience. (See Chart 4)


Occupations

The occupational distribution between Arab-American entrepreneurs and their non-Arab counterparts is quite striking. The top five occupational categories for both groups are:

  • Executive/ administrative/managerial
  • Professional specialty
  • Sales Services (not personal domestic or protective),
  • Precision repair

Sales comprise the largest percentage of both Arab-American and non-Arab-American entrepreneurs; although the rate of Arab-Americans in sales (33.4%) is almost double that of non-Arabs (17.9 %). Moreover, non-Arab-American entrepreneurs are much more evenly distributed across other occupations such as farming, fishing or forestry.
The top four industries attracting Arab-American and non-Arab-American entrepreneurs are:

  • Retail Trade
  • Construction
  • Finance/insurance/real estate, and
  • Professional industries

Consistent with the sales figures cited above, Arab-American entrepreneurs overwhelmingly work in retail trade (34.6%), followed by the professional industries (17.1%). Few are engaged as miners, administrators or in the agricultural/forestry/fishing fields. The same can be said for the entertainment/recreation field (although some notable exceptions apply).

Non-Arab-American entrepreneurs are more evenly distributed across industries, but most are also in the professions (19.5%) and retail trade (16%); the fewest work in entertainment/recreation (1.8%) and transport/commerce/utilities (3.7%).

 


Where We Work

This occupational and industrial distribution varies according to region. Arab-American entrepreneurs in executive/managerial occupations concentrate in the Mid-Atlantic, Pacific, or South Atlantic regions, while those in the professions gravitate toward the East North Central and, less so, the Mountain regions. Arab-Americans in sales favor the Pacific; in service occupations, the East North Central and South Atlantic; and, in precision repair, the Pacific and Mid-Atlantic regions.

By comparison, non-Arab-American entrepreneurs in executive/managerial occupations and sales typically live in the Pacific and South Atlantic, while those in professional occupations are most likely to be found in the Pacific and Mid-Atlantic regions, and those in retail trade tend to live in the South Atlantic and Pacific, and are least likely to live in the East South Central and New England regions.

The industries among the top four for Arab-American entrepreneurs are distributed regionally as follows: Arab-Americans in construction overwhelmingly locate in the Pacific, South Atlantic, and Mid-Atlantic regions, with the greatest concentration of non-Arabs in construction in the South Atlantic and Pacific, and a few in the Mountain region. The finance/insurance/real estate category is the only industrial arena where both groups, with similar proportions of workers, are most likely to live in the Pacific or South Atlantic regions and least likely in East South Central.

Among those industries not ranking in the top four for non-Arab-American entrepreneurs, those in professional health are concentrated in the Pacific and Mid-Atlantic, with few in the Mountain and East South Central regions, but Arab-American entrepreneurs in this industry reside primarily in the Pacific region and less often in the East South Central and New England.

Similarly, most non-Arab-American entrepreneurs in health and education can be found in the Pacific and Mid-Atlantic, with the fewest in the Mountain and East South Central regions, while Arab-American entrepreneurs in these industries are concentrated in New England, the South Atlantic and Mid-Atlantic.


The Professional Elite

The relationship between education and occupation is not surprising. Entrepreneurs in professional occupations often have post-graduate degrees. Close to 80 percent of Arab-American entrepreneurial professionals 25 years of age and older have higher degrees, compared to nearly 55 percent of their non-Arab counterparts. Entrepreneurs of every ancestry in executive, precision repair, and sales occupations commonly have some college experience, while most in service occupations have not gone beyond high school.

While the groups share similar patterns in education and industrial distribution, the variance between them is quite striking. For example, entrepreneurs in the professional health industries will more likely have postgraduate degrees, while those in finance/insurance/real estate usually have some college experience. But the proportion of Arab-Americans holding degrees in both fields is at least 20 percent higher.
(See Chart 5)



How Much We Make

As occupation and industry vary, so does income. The average Arab-American entrepreneur may have a higher personal and household income than a non-Arab-American counterpart in most regions of the United States.

Median household income is strikingly higher for Arab-Americans in the Pacific, Northeast, New England, and South Atlantic regions, exceeding $50,000 annually. Arab-Americans in the Mountain region have higher household, but lower personal, incomes. In the Pacific region incomes of the two groups are similar, with non-Arab-American entrepreneurs having lower household but slightly higher personal incomes.

When median personal income is broken down by sex, many of the above-noted patterns are repeated. Arab-American female and male entrepreneurs earn more than their non-Arab-American counterparts in New England, West North Central, South Atlantic, and East South Central. Non-Arab-American male and female entrepreneurs tend to have higher personal incomes in the Mountain region. All women, regardless of ancestry, earn very little, but Arab-American female entrepreneurs typically earn more than non-Arab-American females in all regions except West South Central and Mountain. Males of all ancestries typically earn more than females in every region. (See Chart 6)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


A Misunderstood Group

Arab-Americans are numerous, affluent and often misunderstood. Like many other ethnic or minority groups, they suffer from stereotyping and negative press. Yet they represent significant and distinct niche markets.
Arab-American entrepreneurship is as old as America, and has had to endure the traditional problems of inadequate capital, federal restrictions and the failure of policy makers and educators to understand its importance in the community. A recent census estimates the receipts of Arab-American entrepreneurs to be 1 percent of the U.S. total. This figure, however, is debated by many who say that the census is only looking at small companies.

A glance through the advertising pages of Arab-American publications reveals a mix of specialized and mainstream products and services, such as medical, legal and educational services; literary works; foods; and computer and electronic products.
Ultimately, like any other immigrant group, Arab-Americans want to enjoy America's riches while preserving the important parts of their native culture.


El-Badry is a president of International Demographic and Economic Associates (IDEA), an Austin, Tx-based consulting firm. El-Badry, who is an Arab-American of Egyptian descent, also is a vice president with Teknecon Energy Risk Advisors LLC, an Austin, Tx.-based energy consulting company. She serves on the advisory board of the Secretary of Commerce's Decennial Census as a representative of the Arab-American community.

Article published courtesy of  Arab American Business Magazine
 
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Arab American Demographics: DETROIT, MI
Metropolitan Detroit is the largest concentration of Arabs outside of the Middle East. Over 350,000 people of Arabic heritage call Metro Detroit home
The Arab community of Detroit has one of the highest educational attainments of any ethnic group. While one in five (20.3%) of all Americans has graduated from college, almost two in five Arab Americans (36.3%) have a college degree.
A recent consumer study found very high degrees of brand loyalty among Arab Americans. Over 60% of the Arab American market segment placed brand loyalty ahead of price sensitivity.
Arab-Americans own an estimated 3,000 businesses in Michigan.
Arab Americans of Michigan live primarily in Wayne and Oakland Counties in the following cities:
Dearborn
Livonia
Detroit
Warren
Flint
Saginaw
Bloomfield Hills
Farmington Hills
An Estimated 5 Million Arab Americans live in the United States with the largest concentrations in:
California (760,000)
Michigan (476,000)
Illinois
New York
New Jersey
Florida.
Over 60% of Arab-Americans are Christian.
Suorce: Zogby International / ACCESS Marketing
 
 
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Mgt/Profl Sales/Adm Services FinanceFarming CraftLabor

22%    30%    12%   6%    3%    13%   18%

 
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Across a variety of products,
Arab-Americans express an average
 level of brand loyalty exceeding 60%
 
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86% of Arab Americans are likely to purchase a product advertised on Arab-American Media
 
LARGEST ARAB AMERICAN COMMUNITIES
 

California

Los Angeles, Orange county, San Francisco, Marin County, San Diego, San Jose, Sacramento

Massachusetts

Boston, Newton, Brookline, Sharon, Lynn, Springfield, Framingham

New York

Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, Staten Island, Long Island, Westchester County, Rockland County, Albany, Rochester, Syracuse

New Jersey

Bergen County, Marlboro, Cherry Hill, Parsippany, Livingston, Manalapan, Matawan

Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Jenkintown

Washington , DC

Baltimore, Bethesda, Rockville, Pikesville, Gaithersburg, Washington (D.C.) Arlington, Fairfax

Minnesota

Minneapolis, Hopkins, St. Paul, Woodbury, Minnetonka

Georgia

Atlanta

Washington State

Seattle, Bellevue, Redmond, Vancouver, Tacoma

Oregon

Salem, Woodburn, Portland, Oregon City, West Linn, Lake Oswego, Beaverton, Tigard, Tualatin

Colorado

Denver, Aurora, Glendale, Arvada, Parker, Littleton, Golden, Louisville, Lafayette, Boulder, Colorado Springs

Connecticut

Hartford, Stamford, New Haven

Nevada

Las Vegas, Reno

Illinois

Chicago,

Texas

Houston, Dallas, San Antonio

Michigan

Detroit, Dearborn

Florida

North Miami Beach, Hallandale, Tampa, Fort Lauderdale, Coral Springs, Orlando, St. Petersburg, Daytona Beach

California

Los Angeles, Orange county, San Francisco, Marin County, San Diego, San Jose, Sacramento

Massachusetts

Boston, Newton, Brookline, Sharon, Lynn, Springfield, Framingham

New York

Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, Staten Island, Long Island, Westchester County, Rockland County, Albany, Rochester, Syracuse

New Jersey

Bergen County, Marlboro, Cherry Hill, Parsippany, Livingston, Manalapan, Matawan

Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Jenkintown

Washington , DC

Baltimore, Bethesda, Rockville, Pikesville, Gaithersburg, Washington (D.C.) Arlington, Fairfax

Michigan

Detroit, Dearborn

Minnesota

Minneapolis, Hopkins, St. Paul, Woodbury, Minnetonka

Florida

North Miami Beach, Hallandale, Tampa, Fort Lauderdale, Coral Springs, Orlando, St. Petersburg, Daytona Beach

Georgia

Atlanta

Washington State

Seattle, Bellevue, Redmond, Vancouver, Tacoma

Oregon

Salem, Woodburn, Portland, Oregon City, West Linn, Lake Oswego, Beaverton, Tigard, Tualatin

Colorado

Denver, Aurora, Glendale, Arvada, Parker, Littleton, Golden, Louisville, Lafayette, Boulder, Colorado Springs

Connecticut

Hartford, Stamford, New Haven

 

Las Vegas, Reno

Illinois

Chicago,

Texas

Houston, Dallas, San Antonio

 
 

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