The U.S. Census Bureau made history by releasing a report on the population of Americans who indicated an Arab ancestry in the 2000 Census. The Arab Population: 2000 is a twelve page summary of population and national origin trends among the Arab American community. The report represents the first time a Census population brief has been published on an ethnic group outside officially-designated minority populations. There are, however, difficulties in the report.
While the Report captures data on 1.25 million Americans who listed an Arab ancestry in the 2000 census, AAI estimates the national population to be more than 3.5 million. Descendants of the first major wave of Arab immigration to the U.S. (1880-1920) are now well into their fifth generation and more recent Arab immigration has averaged over 25,000 annually in the past decade alone. According to estimates by the national polling firm Zogby International, under-reporting of Arab ancestry in the census could be as high as a factor of 3.4 in states with significant Arab American concentration.
As an official Census Information Center, the Arab American Institute provides to the public data and analysis on the Arab American population and has been a national partner with the U.S. Census Bureau on demographic research for more than 15 years. Providing both the contextual framework of Arab American population trends and guidance on policy issues affecting measurement of ethnic communities, AAI continues to support the Census Bureau's efforts to improve data collection and reconcile discrepancies in population estimates on this important emerging constituency.
Key features of The Arab Population: 2000 include ranking of reported national origin groups and cities with the largest proportion of Arab Americans. The most telling information from the 2000 Census is the socio-economic characteristics of the Arab ancestry population. Much of this information is already detailed on the AAI web site www.aaiusa.org including a national profile of economic, family, occupation, citizenship and other indicators that situate Arab Americans as diverse, highly-educated, entrepreneurial, increasingly professional, family-oriented and well-rooted in the community. For example, 41 percent of Arab Americans have at least a bachelor's degree as compared to 24 of all Americans. AAI also provides research beyond the census about civic and political attitudes, behaviors and identities among this dynamic and complex population. Among AAI's findings is that 31.5% of Arab Americans contributed to a political candidate and 23% volunteered for a campaign in 2000.
The Census 2000 report reflects the commitment of many government agencies to promote constructive, supportive and respectful relationships with the Arab American community.