In America, Nigerians' education pursuit is above rest
Whether driven by immigration or family, data show more earn degrees
By LESLIE CASIMIR
Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle
Nigerian immigrants have the highest levels of education in this city and the nation, surpassing whites and Asians, according to Census data bolstered by an analysis of 13 annual Houston-area surveys conducted by Rice University.
Although they make up a tiny portion of the U.S. population, a whopping 17 percent of all Nigerians in this country held master's degrees while 4 percent had a doctorate, according to the 2006 American Community Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau. In addition, 37 percent had bachelor's degrees.
To put those numbers in perspective, 8 percent of the white population in the U.S. had master's degrees, according to the Census survey. And 1 percent held doctorates. About 19 percent of white residents had bachelor's degrees. Asians come closer to the Nigerians with 12 percent holding master's degrees and 3 percent having doctorates. …
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 Census data shows.
Of all the Nigerian immigrants he reached in his random phone surveys 1994 through 2007 — 45 households total — Klineberg said 40 percent of the Nigerians said they had post-graduate degrees.
"These are higher levels of educational attainment than were found in any other ... community," Klineberg said.
There are more than 12,000 Nigerians in Houston, according to the latest Census data, a figure sociologists and Nigerian community leaders say is a gross undercount. They believe the number to be closer to 100,000.
There are plenty of worthy Nigerian-Americans, but when your countrymen have blanketed the world with faxes and emails for 15 years with accounts of embezzled funds just waiting to be smuggled out of Lagos, well, you do pay a price in credibility.
Consider that the Swiss made money off their reputation for honesty (if you put your money in a Swiss bank, they'll let you have it back), while Nigerians have tried to make money off promoting the stereotype of Nigeria as so corrupt that there are piles of stolen money lying around ripe for the taking.
Skepticism aside, African immigrants to the U.S. are the cream of the crop, a big crop of 770 million people, much like Indian immigrants. A friend of mine from Cameroon came from a family in which eight of the nine children had earned advanced degrees from European or American universities. So, many of them are solid performers.
Also, as Lani Guinier and Henry Louis Gates have frequently complained, there's a big demand from American universities for blacks for quota purposes, and so long as you look at least part African, the admissions committees don't care whether your ancestors were slaves in America or whether your ancestors got rich selling slaves to the Europeans. Moreover, Africans tend to have less attitude than African Americans, so it's all good from the point of view of colleges desperate for "diversity" but who don't actually want to put up with African-Americans from the 'hood.
That said, I don't see much evidence that African immigrants are making the same kind of mark in the upper reaches of American academia and business that Indians are, or even that South Koreans, with only 40 million people, are.