A resource for Educators and Communities
1. Who are Arab Americans?
Arab Americans are U.S. citizens and permanent residents who trace their ancestry to or who immigrated from Arabic-speaking places in southwestern Asia and northern Africa, a region known as the Middle East. Not all people in this region are Arabs. Most Arab Americans were born in the United States.
2. How many Arab Americans are there?
This is the subject of some debate. Estimates vary because the U.S. Census Bureau does not use an Arab American classification and because people identify themselves in various ways. Some Arab Americans identify themselves as Middle Eastern, for example. Recent immigrants from many countries are reluctant to give personal and confidential information to the government, and an increasing number of people have more than one ethnicity. Estimates of Arab Americans living in the United States are about 3 million.
3. Where do Arab Americans live?
Arab Americans live in all 50 states, but about a third are concentrated in California, Michigan and New York. Another third are in these seven states: Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio, Texas and Virginia.
4. What are the population centers for Arab Americans?
About half of Arab Americans live in 20 metropolitan areas. The top four are Los Angeles County in California; Wayne and Oakland counties in Michigan; Brooklyn, N.Y., and Cook County, Ill.
5. Do Arabs have a shared language?
The Arabic language is one of the great unifying and distinguishing characteristics of Arab people. Even so, colloquial Arabic differs from place to place. There are several categories; Levantine dialect (Jordan, Syria, Palestine, Lebanon), Egyptian and North African dialect, and Khalijji, or Gulf, dialect. Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) is a pan-Arabic language used in formal letters, books and newspapers. It is also spoken at Middles East peace conferences and on television news. Quaranic Arabic, like MSA, also is a widely spoken form of the language, but it differs in style and lexicon from MSA. Not all Arab Americans know Arabic, of course, as many are second-, third- and fourth-generation Americans.