Immigrants from Africa swelling Minnesota's black population

In the library
Somali students working in the library in Pelican Rapids.
MPR Photo/Tom Crann

(AP) - Minnesota's black population is growing five times faster than the nation's black population as a whole, according to census data released Wednesday.

Minnesota was ranked 10th in the nation in 2000 in numbers of African immigrants living in the state. The number grew 85 percent in six years and is now estimated at between 60,000 and 90,000.

If children born in Minnesota are included, the state demographer's office said the number may have doubled since 2000.

"Minnesota is definitely drawing African immigrants in large numbers, no doubt about it," said Barbara Ronningen, the immigration specialist with the state demographer's office. "If you include children born here, it may have doubled already in this decade. The share of all Minnesota births that are to Somali mothers is becoming incredible."

However, Minnesota ranks only 31st for the percentage of its residents who are black - with about 228,000 people, or 4.4 percent - behind states including Kansas and Oklahoma.

Experts and immigrants agree that Africans are immigrating to the United States for many of the same reasons that Hmong immigrants came to the country in the 1980s and 1990s.

Refugee agencies guide refugees to different regions, trying to judge which ones might be receptive. Minnesota is one logical choice because it has one of the nation's smallest minority populations.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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