Arabs at home and abroad

In Foreign Policy, Moises Naim makes an interesting point about Arab Americans: People of Arab descent living in the United States are doing far better than the average American. That is the surprising conclusion drawn from data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2000 and released last March. The census found that U.S. residents ...

By , a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.
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590338_556018364_aadata2.gif

In Foreign Policy, Moises Naim makes an interesting point about Arab Americans:

People of Arab descent living in the United States are doing far better than the average American. That is the surprising conclusion drawn from data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2000 and released last March. The census found that U.S. residents who report having Arab ancestors are better educated and wealthier than average Americans. Whereas 24 percent of Americans hold college degrees, 41 percent of Arab Americans are college graduates. The median income for an Arab family living in the United States is $52,300?4.6 percent higher than other American families?and more than half of all Arab Americans own their home. Forty-two percent of people of Arab descent in the United States work as managers or professionals, while the same is true for only 34 percent of the general U.S. population. For many, this success has come on quickly: Although about 50 percent of Arab Americans were born in the United States, nearly half of those born abroad did not arrive until the 1990s.

For Naim, this success presents an interesting puzzle:

In Foreign Policy, Moises Naim makes an interesting point about Arab Americans:

People of Arab descent living in the United States are doing far better than the average American. That is the surprising conclusion drawn from data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2000 and released last March. The census found that U.S. residents who report having Arab ancestors are better educated and wealthier than average Americans. Whereas 24 percent of Americans hold college degrees, 41 percent of Arab Americans are college graduates. The median income for an Arab family living in the United States is $52,300?4.6 percent higher than other American families?and more than half of all Arab Americans own their home. Forty-two percent of people of Arab descent in the United States work as managers or professionals, while the same is true for only 34 percent of the general U.S. population. For many, this success has come on quickly: Although about 50 percent of Arab Americans were born in the United States, nearly half of those born abroad did not arrive until the 1990s.

For Naim, this success presents an interesting puzzle:

Of course, many will explain the success of Arab Americans by pointing out that people who emigrate tend to be younger, more motivated, ambitious, and entrepreneurial. The Arab immigrants who are doing so well in the United States, according to this view, would have made it anywhere. Sadly, that isn?t true, either. Otherwise, how does one explain why Arab immigrants in Europe are worse off than those in the United States? Why are leaders of Arab communities in France warning that social and racial tensions are in danger of creating a ?social and political atom bomb?? Sure, France may be an extreme case, but the situation of Arabs in the rest of Europe is hardly better. In general, Muslims living in Europe?of which Arabs constitute a significant proportion?are poorer, less educated, and in worse health than the rest of the population. In the Netherlands, the unemployment rate for ethnic Moroccans is 22 percent, roughly four times the rate for the country as a whole. In Britain, the Muslim population has the highest unemployment rate of all religious groups. The failure of Arabs in Europe is particularly worrisome given that 10 of the states or entities along Europe?s eastern and southern borders are home to nearly 250 million Muslims?most of them Arabs?with a birthrate more than double that of Europeans. This census data should prompt soul-searching in many quarters. Cultural determinists may want to revise their theories of Arab backwardness. Arab leaders should be ashamed when they see their emigrants prospering in the United States while their own people are miserable. And Europe should wake up to the possibility that it may have less of an ?Arab problem? than a ?European problem.? Then again, maybe the cultural determinists have an explanation for why Europeans are so predisposed against Arab success.

Read the whole thing. And thanks to Colin Grabow for the link. UPDATE: Hmmm…. Naim may have spoken too soon. Many thanks all of the commenters — especially Andr?s Vernon — for pointing out the differences in the attributes of Arabs emigrating to the U.S. versus Arabs emigrating to Europe. Vernon provided a link to this Arab American Institute web page on Arab demographic. Two graphs worth reprinting:

BREAKDOWN OF ARAB AMERICANS BY COUNTRY OF ORIGIN aadata.gif

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BREAKDOWN OF ARAB AMERICANS BY RELIGION aareligion.gif

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The second graph is particularly telling. I seriously doubt that only 24% of Europe’s Arab influx is Muslim — which means that the Arab immigrant stream into Europe is demonstrably different than those Arabs who empigrate to America. For more on the European side of the equation, see Claude Salhani analysis for UPI from last December. And thanks to all the commenters for picking up the flaw in Naim’s data. LAST UPDATE: See Reihan Salam for more on this.

Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, where he is the co-director of the Russia and Eurasia Program. Twitter: @dandrezner

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