UAO aims to serve as the African Community Resource Clearinghouse wherein constituents gather, access information, share experiences, exchange views, and coordinate organizational capacity development. UAO's hub of resources on this website is intended to assist community members in navigating services, programs and resources that are available to help them cope better in the United States.
For Immediate Release
September 1, 2022
United African Organization releases new demographic and needs assessment study of the African Community in Illinois
New report reveals a large, growing and diverse community of more than 128,000 living in neighborhoods and cities across the state.
CHICAGO, IL (September 1, 2022) – As the Black immigrant and refugee community grows in Illinois, it is important to have an understanding of the basic characteristics and needs of the community. Having a profile of the community is the first step in developing responsive public and private programs and policies, and in educating the general public about their contributions.
According to the American Community Survey, 2015-2019, about 36 cities in Illinois have at least 500 African residents. The African population in Chicago is the largest at 47,277, followed by Evanston at 3,725 and Bolingbrook at 2,507. Most of the large African populations are in cities near Chicago, but many are in other parts of Illinois, such as Rock Island, Springfield and East Moline.
“This new report will inform our priorities in public policy advocacy, community organizing as well as designing innovative programs or expanding existing services to address community needs, including immigration, health, economic security, youth development, access to public benefits and many more,” said Nancy Asirifi-Otchere, Executive Director of the United African Organization (UAO).
“The report shows that we are the most educated immigrant population and our skills are central to the state’s labor force,” added Dr. Eustace Kaijage, UAO board member and Black immigrant who has called Illinois home for more than fifty years.
Key Characteristics of the African community in Illinois:
- Africans and their families are much younger than other Illinois residents. About 31 percent are children aged 0-17 years, compared with 23 percent of other Illinoisans.
Africans are more likely to be in their prime working years: about 41 percent of Africans are aged 18-44 years, compared to 36 percent of other Illinoisans. Only about 7 percent of Africans are 65 years or older while 15 percent of other Illinois residents are 65 years or older.
Africans are highly educated. About 46 percent have at least a bachelor’s degree, compared to only 35 percent of non-Africans in Illinois.
Africans are more likely to be in the labor force, to be employed, and to be self-employed. About 74 percent of Africans are “in the labor force,” meaning they are working or looking for work, compared with 65 percent of other Illinois residents. Africans are also more likely to be self-employed: about 8 percent of Africans are self-employed compared with 6 percent of other persons in Illinois.
The jobs held by some fit the picture of persons doing some of the hardest and lowest-paying jobs in the service economy. The lives of these persons can be improved by supporting statewide efforts to improve wages and conditions for al lower-wage workers.
Some struggle with education credentials exemplified by the fact that many come here highly trained but can’t find work in their original careers. They often deal with the issue of under-employment.
Most African immigrants and refugees speak English very well. Only a relatively small portion – less than 2 percent – do not speak English at all, according to the American Community Survey. About 73 percent of Africans immigrants and refugees report that they speak English “very well” or that they speak only English.
United African Organization is a dynamic coalition of African community-based associations dedicated to social justice, civic participation, and empowerment of African immigrants and refugees in Illinois.
For more information, visit www.uniteafricans.org or call 312-949-9980
This study reports the current demographic characteristics of African immigrants in Illinois and in the process illuminates their needs and challenges.
As part of the Africans in Chicago Oral History Project, UAO has compiled an interactive timeline that tells the story of African migration to the United States.
Migration Policy Institute (MPI) and Migration Information Source MPI provides analysis, development, and evaluation of migration and refugee policies at the local, national, and international levels. MPI publishes the online journal The Migration Information Source, a resource providing current and accurate migration and refugee data and analysis.
Rob Paral & Associates is a consulting firm that analyzes (predominantly Census) data. Most of their work relates to the Chicago area. This website contains maps showing, among other things, immigration patterns over the years.