Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Nigerian immigrants have highest level of education in the U.S.

Nigerian immigrants have the highest levels of education in Houston and the nation, surpassing whites and Asians, according to a Census data bolstered by an analysis of 13 annual Houston-area surveys, Leslie Casimir of the Houston Chronicle reports.

David Olowokere, originally from Nigeria and the chairman of Texas Southern University’s department of engineering technologies, told Casimir that holding a master’s degree just wasn’t good enough for his people back home. So he got a doctorate. His wife, Shalewa Olowokere is a civil engineer and hold a master’s degree.

According to a 2006 American Community Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, 17 percent of all Nigerians in the U.S. hold a master’s degree, 4 percent hold a doctorate and 37 percent have a bachelor’s degree. In comparison, 8 percent of the white population in the U.S. hold a master’s degrees, 1 percent hold a doctorate and 19 percent have a bachelor’s degrees.

The Nigerian numbers are strikingly high, Roderick Harrison told Casimir. He is a demographer at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a Washington D.C. think-thank that specializes in researching black issues.

However, Stephen Klineberg, a Sociologist at Rice University who conducts the annual Houston Area Survey, suspects the percentage of Nigerian immigrants with post-graduate degrees is higher than the Census data shows.

According to the latest Census data there are more than 12,000 Nigerians in Houston. This is a figure sociologists and Nigerian community leaders say is a gross undercount, as they believe the number is closer to 100,000.

Out of all the Nigerian immigrants Kleinberg reached in his random phone surveys in 1994 through 2007—a total of 45 households—40 percent of them told him they had post-graduate degrees.

The reasons Nigerians have more post-graduate degrees than any other racial or ethnic group is largely due to the Nigerian society’s emphasis on mandatory and free education, Casimir reports. After immigrating to the U.S., practical matters of immigrations laws get in the way. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 made it easier for Africans to enter the U.S., but mostly as students or highly skilled professionals—not through family sponsorships, Kleinberg said.

Houston Chronicle

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