In the late 19th century, immigrants to the United States from the Arab world began arriving in rather sizable numbers. Today nearly 4 million people call themselves Arab-Americans are second, third, or fourth generation citizens from this surge in immigration.
67% of Arab-Americans live in just 10 states today even though all 50 states have this demographic as part of their population base.
With a family heritage that can stretch back for more than 1,000 years, living in a country that has existed for less than 250 years can present some unique challenges to this demographic. Yet as the information below proves, Arab-Americans are thriving in the United States – and more than 80% of this demographic are US citizens.
Living Life In The US As An Arab-American
- Over 90% of Arab-Americans live in metropolitan areas, with Detroit and Los Angeles having the largest concentrations of this demographic.
- Although Arab-Americans have family histories that include 22 nations, 49 states have households which originate from Lebanon as a majority heritage. Rhode Island is the exception, which has Syria has the nation of origin as a majority.
- The percentage of Arab-Americans who have obtained a high school diploma: 89%.
- For those in this demographic who are of a schooling age, 12% are in kindergarten or preschool, 56% are in 1-12 grades, and 32% are in a higher education program.
- About 65% of Arab-Americans are actively engaged in the labor market and this demographic averages about a 5% unemployment rate in any given year.
- 88% of Arab-Americans are employed in the private sector. Just 14% of this demographic is employed in the service industry, which is 3% lower than the general population.
- In 2008, Arab-American households earned a median income of $56,000 annually, which was about 10% higher than the general population.
- 18% of Arab-Americans have a post-graduate degree, which is about 2x higher than the general population. 45% of this demographic have a 4 year degree, which is also nearly 2x higher than the general population.
- 63% of this population demographic are natural-born citizens, defined as meaning they were either born on US soil or their mother was already a US citizen.
- Despite this rich diversity, many of the racial and ethnic descriptors for Arab-Americans are classified as having them being “White” or “Caucasian.”
Arab-Americans have been an influential component of the growth the US has experienced in the last 100+ years. Despite a recent increase in negative feedback against this demographic, Arab-Americans are still finding financial, educational, and personal successes as they pursue happiness. The one issue that this demographic does face, however, is poverty. 13.7% of Arab-Americans are living below the poverty line, but single mothers in this group are at 3x the risk of living in poverty. These figures are above the rates in the general population.
Growth Trends In Arab-American Demograpics
- The number of people who identified as having Arabic speaking ancestries in their family increased by 72% in the US between 2000-2010 census data.
- Since 1990, the Arab-American demographic has increased by 91%.
- The number of Arab-Americans has doubled since ethnic data was first collected by the US Census Bureau in 1980.
- The largest number of new Arab-Americans is coming from Lebanon, Egypt, and Iraq.
- 37% of Arab-Americans have Lebanese roots.
- Nearly 600,000 Arab-Americans call California their home. New York, Florida, Michigan, and Texas round out the Top 5 states in total population.
- Arab-American households with a Yemeni background have the largest households at 4.34 people per unit. Lebanese households are the smallest at 2.66 per unit. This is still above the average 2.59 per unit in the general US population.
- 55.7% of Arab-American households are led by a married couple, which is 6 percentage points higher than the general US population.
- 1 in 3 Arab-Americans describes their career field as being in “Sales,” which is more than 2x that of the general population.
One of the issues we currently face in tracking demographic data on Arab-Americans is that specific data is not collected about this minority group. It’s because the federal government doesn’t officially recognize them as an ethnic minority despite more than a century of existence in the US, making the figures somewhat inaccurate. Each source of demographic data must do their own research outside of self-reported data collected by the US Census Bureau. Despite these challenges, each data set does point to one unique fact: Arab-American households are growing and on a path that is generally headed toward success.
The Future As An Arab-American
- Just under 60% of Arab-American households own their own home, which is about 6 percentage points lower than the general population. Lebanese and Syrian households, if taken individually, have 71% and 69% home ownership rates respectively.
- Lebanese households have an annual average income of over $67,000. On the other end of the scale in this demographic, Iraqi households have an average income of just $32,000.
- 1 in 4 Arab-Americans also identifies themselves as a follower of Islam.
- 42% of Arab-Americans state that Catholicism is their preferred religious preference, but if the generic term “Christian” is applied, the percentage increases to 63%.
- Arab-Americans under the age of 30 are nearly 2x more likely to be more devoted to their faith by attending weekly services, praying regularly, and finding that their lifestyles and their faith conflict with one another.
- Younger Arab-Americans are more likely to identify with their religion first when compared to their ethnicity or nationality.
- Arab-Americans under the age of 30 are 2x more likely to have a favorable view of radicalism in their faith when compared to those above the age of 30.
- 39% of Arab-Americans above the age of 30 say that the seldom or never practice their religion or faith compared to 26% in the 18-29 age range.
Conflict is a major component in the future planning of many Arab-American households. For some, it is because there are internal conflicts between their faith and the socioeconomic demands placed upon them. For others, it is the struggle that others in their faith are taking upon themselves to fight for what they believe, even when it may be considered a radicalized belief. Then there is the increasing levels of fear when it comes to anyone who may even look like they practice Islam because of recent incidents of terrorism that have been globally reported. If these conflicts can be resolved, then there will be nothing to hold this population demographic back from achieving whatever levels of success they desire.