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The Relative Affluence of Muslim America


The Economist has an interesting piece on the growing importance of the “Muslim market” in the United States and how companies are adapting to it. They write:

But a new study by JWT, an advertising agency, points out that the 6m or so Muslims in America are, on average, richer and better educated than the general population. Two-thirds of Muslim households make more than $50,000 a year and a quarter earn over $100,000; the national average is $42,000. Two-thirds of American Muslims have a college degree, compared with less than half of the general population. Muslim families also tend to have more children. So the perception that marketing specifically to Muslims is not worthwhile would appear to be wrong.

This is itself an interesting observation. In Australia and, to a lesser extent, the United Kingdom, the Muslim community is not necessarily known for its comparative wealth or relatively better education. So what makes the American Muslim community so different? Is it that American immigration policy has favoured the educated and affluent from the Muslim world or is there something intrinsic to the American system that has led to this?

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  1. Yasir Qadhi

    August 8, 2007 at 5:37 PM

    Salaam Alaikum Amir

    I think the primary reason for this is that the huge wave of immigrants to America, from the 60s up until the late 80s, mainly came for higher education. Many assumed they would leave after their degrees, or only stay a few years, but the years flew by and here we are! Hence it is only natural that such an emphasis on education was handed down to their kids. And – generally speaking – college degrees do tend to get you higher paying jobs, sans Bill Gates of course ;)

    This is in contrast to most immigrants to, say, the UK, who were brought there from the late 40s to the mid 60s primarily as labour class. Most of them ended up working in the factories (hence to this day the largest concentrations of Muslims are in areas that have large or numerous manufacturing plants around them). This obviously had a dramatic effect on the social status of the two communities.

    In most parts of Europe, Muslims were brought in for cheap labor, but in America that was never the case (in America that role is given to Hispanics, hence all the debate over immigration centers around them).

    I am always amazed at the differences between American and British Muslims – and much of it goes back to these reasons. British Muslims tend to have far more cultural strings still attached to them, hence there is still a degree of inter-Muslim racism (forget desi vs Arab, its which TYPE of desi are you!) and pronounced polemics between various groups. American Muslims are far more integrated, and don’t have as much of a cultural background as their European counterparts. This has positives and negatives by the way…

    Just my $.02, I know others will views things differently. And I’m sure there are many other factors involved as wel…


  2. Saw

    August 9, 2007 at 1:13 PM

    So what makes the American Muslim community so different?

    First, I agree with Yasir’s post above that most Muslims who came here before 1990’s came here seeking higher education and never went back. Plus, another important aspect that no other country on earth can claim is; America as an immigrant nation, every-one feels they have a chance and this includes all Muslims who migrated here.

    This is not the case in the UK/Europe.

  3. ...

    August 9, 2007 at 1:33 PM

    Sheikh YQ, what problems can integration bring? isnt that the goal ? to integrate under the umbrella of islam rather then ethnic background?

  4. Kamran

    August 9, 2007 at 1:47 PM

    Jazak Allah Khair Sh Yasir. I believe Australia situation is similar to UK. Infact, I find in Australia, it’s not just muslims but all ethnicities are ghettoised. Just last week, I was talking to a colleague of mine who is from Greek background. But he has not much idea about Greece even though his parents speak Greek etc…In Australia, this is unimaginable. Greek community would ostracize any kid who doesn’t speak their language. Similarly, we have the lebbo muslims, the turkish muslims etc in Australia.

    Actually, I can say with surety that if you were to take the same stats for “desi” Muslims in Australia, you’d come up with similar figures that were found for overall Muslims in US.


  5. AnonyMouse

    August 9, 2007 at 1:56 PM

    Very interesting… I think that it’s the same for Canada also – many, if not most, of the first Muslims here came for education and a better chance to support their families, which is why we have so many Muslim professionals (masha’Allah).

  6. Amad

    August 9, 2007 at 2:13 PM

    Canada is the ultimate “stealer”… if you have money, bring it on! The cream of the Muslims’ crop ends up in America or Canada… but Canada is more open to it. I have known families, who have been well-settled in Dubai and they moved with their life savings to Canada. They bought a store and working both shifts (husband and wife) to make ends meet… They really rue the lifestyle… sometimes it turns out not to be the “bargain” one was hoping for. Of course, there are exceptions. :)

  7. Faiez

    August 9, 2007 at 2:36 PM

    “Two-thirds of Muslim households make more than $50,000 a year and a quarter earn over $100,000”

    hmmm, maybe we need to step up our game in getting donations :D

  8. khawla hurayrah

    August 9, 2007 at 3:14 PM

    Oops, don’t forget Muslim coming as refugees

    like : Afghans, Bosnians, Cubans, Haitians, Somalis, Iraqi Kurds, Iraqis, Montagnards, Pelestine, Somali Bantus, Uganda and many more. Some are still living on welfare system.

  9. zaynab

    August 9, 2007 at 4:07 PM

    Wow, this is so far from my reality here in Ontario. My community, and extended family, is made up mostly of immigrants and refugees, people who came here in the 90’s.

    It’s always seemed to me like this was more a part of the Desi community than any other. Like Sh.Yasir mentioned, many of them did come here for higher education, which was not the case for a lot of Muslims from other countries. While Muslims in Canada didn’t come as cheap labour, a LARGE number of them (at least in Ottawa and Toronto) came as refugees. A lot of Somalis ended up settling in these areas in the 90s, all throughout the [ongoing] civil war.

    May Allah grant us peace and stability. Ameen.

  10. Amir

    August 9, 2007 at 4:57 PM

    The other point is that these figures all take the Muslim community in the aggregate. There will, I am sure, be ethnic and cultural pockets within the community who are less affluent and less educated than the rest of the population. For example, the impression I get is that although South Asian Muslims may be relatively wealthy, African-American Muslims may be relatively disadvantaged but this is lost when we look at averages because the rich Pakistani doctors — to use a stereotype — skew the statistics in one direction.

    A further point may be that, unlike Australia and the United Kingdom, the United States isn’t a “welfare state” so there is no opportunity for people to just decide not to work but to live on the dole. I know plenty of people who have made the ‘lifestyle choice’ that they don’t want to hold down a job or start a business because by having 5 or 6 kids, the government will pay them far more than they could ever earn, given their skills, in the workforce.

  11. abu ameerah

    August 11, 2007 at 3:24 AM

    I wish some of that affluence was in my wallet at the moment …lol…uhhh…just kidding…

    (awkward pause)

    Seriously though … can I get a dollar?


  12. Abu Noor Al-Irlandee

    January 6, 2009 at 12:11 PM

    The analysis given by Shaykh Yasir is generally accepted and I see no reason to disagree with it.

    Some of the points made by others should be emphasized, however. There are poor Muslims in America of every type of ethnic background, and I fear that some of these may be ‘invisible’ to such studies for a few reasons….. I’m sure whoever compiled these statistics made some attempts to address these issues, but I would worry that stats of this type would undercount Blackamericans or other converts who cannot be identified as Muslim merely by their name or ethnicity, I also wonder whether such studies capture undocumented immigrants — although there are probably not as many of these as there were pre 9/11, at least many of them would tend to have lower incomes as well.

    Also, my hunch (although I could be wrong) is that while American Muslims who tend to emphasize education and entering the professions may have high incomes, they are still relative newcomers to the US and it will still probably take a few generations inshAllaah until large amounts of wealth as opposed to higher than average incomes are amassed. InshAllaah may we strengthen the deen so that all such resources which are a trust from Allaah (swt) are used in a way that is pleasing to Him.

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