Pew Research Center statistics reveal similarities and differences between U.S.-born and foreign-born Muslim Americans

A report from the Pew Research Center reveals statistics and important similarities and differences between foreign-born and U.S.-born American Muslims.

While 58% of U.S. Muslim adults are foreign-born (largely due to the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act which lowered barriers to immigration from Africa, Asia, and other regions outside Europe), 42% are U.S.-born, being descended from Muslim immigrants and converts, or converts themselves.

Both groups are racially and ethnically diverse. Substantial shares of both groups identify as white, which includes those who identify racially as Arab, Middle Eastern, or Persian.

A large proportion of foreign-born Muslims (roughly half (56%) of whom have arrived since 2000) are Asian, but no single region or country of origin accounts for a majority of them. Respondents to Pew’s survey hailed from 75 countries of origin, reflecting their racial and ethnic diversity.

A large share of U.S.-born Muslims are black or Hispanic, but again no single racial or ethnic group accounts for a majority. 45% identify as white and 41% identify as Asian. 44% of U.S.-born Muslims have at least one parent who emigrated from the Middle East or North Africa (meaning they are second generation).

The survey revealed that U.S.-born Muslims with at least one immigrant parent are more likely to be categorized as white (52%) than as any other ethnicity or race. Among third or higher generation Muslims, 51% say they are black, while only 2% are Asian.

Third or higher generation Muslims are also much more likely to be converts (two thirds have not always been Muslim). In comparison, 81% second generation Muslims and 95% of foreign-born Muslims have been Muslim since childhood.

Second generation Muslims make up 18% of the U.S. Muslim adult population, while third or higher generation Muslims make up 24%.

Foreign-born and U.S.-born American Muslims engage in similar levels of religious observance – those in both groups are equally likely to say they attend religious services at least once a week, fast during Ramadan, and to say that eating halal food is essential to being a Muslim. Similar shares from both groups also said that there is something about their “appearance, voice or clothing” that might identify them as Muslim. U.S.-born Muslim women and foreign-born Muslim women are about as a likely to regularly wear head coverings in public.

These similarities between the two groups also include high levels of pride in their religious and national identities. Furthermore, Pew’s survey found that U.S.-born Muslims are about as likely as the general U.S. population to say they are proud to be American, and express their pride in their religious identity at about the same rate as U.S. Christians.

U.S.-born and foreign-born Muslims have much in common when it comes to politics, the survey found, as each group is divided in roughly similar ways along the American ideological and political spectrums. Both groups are more likely to be Democrats than Republicans (and were more likely to have backed Clinton over Trump in the 2016 presidential election, following trends from previous elections), and equal shares of both groups identify ideologically as moderates.

Virtually identical shares of each group who hold U.S. citizenship say they voted in the 2016 presidential election, although foreign-born Muslims are less likely to have cast ballots than U.S.-born Muslims overall, although it is suggested that this is because some may not have U.S. citizenship, meaning they cannot vote. 70% of foreign-born U.S. Muslims are U.S. citizens, a higher rate than seen in U.S. immigrants overall (51%), although the rate of immigrant Muslim citizenship could be as high as 87% if the calculation is adjusted to exclude those who arrived in the U.S. within five years of the 2017 survey results, as it typically takes at least five years of permanent residence to become a naturalized citizen.

However, the report notes that “Immigrants tend to have secured a stronger socioeconomic foothold than U.S.-born Muslims, and they generally express more positive opinions about their place in America”. Foreign-born Muslims are roughly twice as likely as U.S.-born Muslims to have a college degree and own a home.

Some of these differences can be linked with broader racial patterns in the general population, as black Americans do not secure as strong socioeconomic footholds as those of other races, and a much larger share of U.S.-born Muslims are black than foreign-born Muslims.

These results also reveal a difference in situation between Muslim immigrants and the larger trend for immigrants to the U.S., who are no more likely to have a college degree than those born in the U.S., and who tend to make lower salaries than their U.S.-born counterparts.

Foreign-born Muslim adults in the U.S. are more likely than their U.S.-born counterparts to express positive feelings about life in America, including about American media coverage of Muslims, the impact of Trump, and anti-Muslim discrimination. Foreign-born Muslims are also more likely than other immigrants to say they are satisfied with how things are going in the U.S.

With regards to anti-Muslim discrimination, not only are U.S.-born Muslims more likely than foreign-born Muslims to say that there is a lot of it in America, they are also more likely to say that they have personally experienced it in one or more forms, and to believe that black people, Hispanic people, and gay and lesbian people face a of discrimination in the U.S. Pew’s report notes that this again may be connected to racial trends, as black people are especially likely to perceive high levels of discrimination.

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Pew Research Center. (2018) ‘Muslims in American: Immigrants and those born in U.S. see life differently in many ways’. [online] 17 April. [Accessed 21 April 2018].