Arab Americans: A Community Portrait

June 13, 2023

The Arab American community is much larger and more diverse than it has ever been. The total population of Arab Americans is about 2 million according to the U.S. Census, and as large as 3.6 million according to the Arab American Institute.


This report was created by ACCESS, the largest Arab American community nonprofit in the nation and its Center for Arab Narratives (CAN) to secure better data on the national community. As the leading Arab American community-based organization ,ACCESS has worked, for more than 50 years, as a service provider. The agency services approximately 70,000 individuals from disenfranchised communities—primarily those representing the Arab American community—on an annual basis. This on-the-ground experience has allowed for a comprehensive understanding of the needs and challenges facing this critically underrepresented community. ACCESS is committed to utilizing its resources to foster research on Arab Americans in the areas of health, economic mobility, education, community building, culture and philanthropy. Specifically, ACCESSʼs Arab Health Summit is a platform that brings together academics, health leaders and practitioners to share their research on issues that affect Arab communities locally and globally.


The data in this report shows that although most Arabs and other Middle Easterners are counted within the “White” racial category on the U.S. Census, Arab Americans have distinct issues and experiences that are only apparent when Arabs are disaggregated from the White racial category.


The unique issues that Arab Americans face vary depending on country of origin, immigration status, and city of residence. ACCESS hopes that this report helps make the case for Arab Americans to

be counted as part of a broader Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) community in the Census. Data for this report was compiled by disaggregating Arab ancestries from the White racial category on the American Community Survey, and therefore does not incorporate data from Arabs who may identify as Black, such as Sudanese or Somalis. The “Total Population” graph below is one exception, as it includes Arabs counted within the White and Black racial categories.


Nationally, Arab Americans tend to be more highly educated, have higher income and higher rates of

home ownership than the general U.S. population Arab Americans also tend to be younger are more like lyto be an immigrant than the general population. However, national level data on Arab

Americans obscures regional variations, such as disadvantaged communities in the Detroit and Chicago metro areas. ACCESS and CAN believe that with better local and national data on the community, we can address these disparities and create a more empowered and prosperous Arab American community. This report is one step in that direction.



National Comparisons


The following charts compare characteristics of the Arab American population to Non-Hispanic (NH) Whites and the total U.S. population. Note that “Arab” and “Non-Hispanic White” are not mutually exclusive categories. The Census considers Arab to be an ancestry, while White is a race; and in fact the Census guidelines consider most Arabs to be part of the White racial group. (Non-Hispanic refers to a third concept, ethnicity, which only deals with "Hispanic or Latino origin" and can apply to members of any race or ancestry.)



Education, Poverty, and Family Size


At the national level, the Arab American community looks like a paradox: Arab Americans are more likely to have a college degree than the White population, but also less likely to have graduated from high school. The data shows that where someone's family immigrated from and when, influences not only where in the U.S. they may live, but their socio-economic status as well. Family size and poverty are also interlinked. Poverty on this table is indicated by living at 125% or below the poverty line. A multigenerational household refers to two or more generations living in the same household.




The American Community Survey only covers two health-related issues: disability and health insurance. National comparisons show that Arab Americans are more likely to be uninsured and more likely to have public health insurance than both the Non-Hispanic White and the general populations.

Language Barrier


Depending on how long an individual has been in the United States, language barriers can be obstacles to more fully integrating into American society. A linguistically isolated household is one in which no one over the age of 14 is proficient in English. While linguistic isolation may pose challenges to an immigrants ability to integrate into the larger society, Arab American communities with high rates of linguistic isolation, such as metro Detroit, also have many services and institutions that directly serve Arabic-speaking immigrants, which can improve integration.

 Black Arab Population


A small percentage of Arab Americans select Black as their race on the Census, mostly people who also choose Morocco or Egypt as their ancestry. The Census does not list Sudanese and Somali ancestries within the Arab ancestry category, but we wanted to include the communities because some do identify as Arab. The populations on this table are not included in the data elsewhere in this report, because the data for this report was compiled by disaggregating Arab ancestries from the White racial category.




About the Data


This report is a project of ACCESS and the Center for Arab Narratives. The data was compiled by Dr.Jenʼnan Read (Duke University) and Dr. Kristine Ajrouch (Eastern Michigan University) with assistance from Jessica West (Duke University).


Data is from the 2010-2014 5-year estimates published by the U.S. Census Bureauʼs American Community Survey (ACS). Unlike the decennial Census—which is meant to be an exact count of all people and households in the U.S. every 10years—the ACS estimates population characteristics through a representative survey sample carried out in small regions of the U.S. throughout the year.


The ACS releases two kinds of data: one-year and five-year estimates. The one-year estimates provide more current data, but are not available for small locations like census tracts, and are unreliable for small demographic slices. The five-year estimates are meant to approximate the characteristics of the entire U.S. population, and therefore provide greater detail and accuracy by widening the period of the survey.


This report uses the CensusBureau Data API but is not endorsedor certified by the Census Bureau.

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