Afghanistan: Afghan Population in the Washington, DC and Baltimore, MD Metropolitan Areas

Afghanistan: Afghan Population in the Washington, DC and Baltimore, MD Metropolitan Areas Image

Overview: The estimated number of Afghan immigrants* living in the Washington, DC and Baltimore, MD metro areas is 17,648 individuals. The largest numbers of Afghan immigrants are found in Fairfax County, VA (6,863), Prince William County, VA (3,919) and Alexandria City, VA (1,832). NOTE: This data is from 2019 and does not include Afghan immigrants and refugees who have arrived in the United States since 2019.

Forty-nine percent of Afghan immigrants are naturalized U.S. citizens, compared to 53 percent for all other foreign-born individuals. Furthermore, foreign-born Afghans in the Washington, DC and Baltimore, MD metro areas are slightly more likely to be naturalized U.S. citizens, compared to Afghan immigrants living in the rest of the United States (46 percent).

Among Afghan immigrants in this area, 48 percent are male and 52 percent are female. They are slightly less likely to be proficient in English (58 percent) compared to all other foreign born (62 percent). However, Afghan immigrants living in the DC and Baltimore metro areas are much more likely to be proficient in English compared to Afghans living in the rest of the United States (49 percent).

Afghan population in the United States: The absolute number of foreign-born individuals from Afghanistan in the United States has increased over time. However, as a percentage of the immigrant population, their numbers remain relatively small. The largest numbers of Afghan immigrants in the United States are found in the Washington, DC- Arlington, VA-Alexandria, VA metro area (17,008), the Sacramento-Roseville-Arden-Arcade, CA metro area (11,697), and the San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA metro area (11,422).

In 1980, there were approximately 4,100 foreign-born Afghans in the United States. Then, many Afghans arrived as refugees in the 1990s after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and civil war. In 1990, there were approximately 22,300 foreign-born individuals from Afghanistan constituting 0.1 percent of the total immigrant population. In 2000, this number increased to an estimated 48,475 individuals, and by 2010, there were approximately 54,563 Afghan immigrants in the United States, still constituting 0.1 percent of the total immigrant population. Today, there are approximately 132,573 Afghan immigrants in the United States. They constitute 0.3 percent of the total foreign-born population.

Education, income and housing: In terms of educational attainment, Afghan immigrants who live in the DC and Baltimore metro areas are less likely to have a high school diploma compared to the native born. Nineteen percent of Afghan immigrants do not have a high school diploma compared to only six percent of native-born citizens. Afghan immigrants in the DC and Baltimore metro areas are also less likely to have an advanced degree (12 percent) than either all other foreign born (23 percent) and native-born U.S. citizens 23 percent).

Looking at the educational attainment among Afghan immigrants living in the two metro areas and all other Afghans living in the rest of the United States, those living in the DC and Baltimore metro areas are much more likely to hold a Bachelor’s degree or higher compared to all other Afghans. Specifically, 34 percent of Afghan immigrants in the two metro areas have at least a Bachelor’s degree or higher compared to 29 percent of all other foreign-born Afghans in the rest of the country.

The median family income of Afghan immigrants in the DC and Baltimore metro areas ($58,000) is significantly lower than the median earned family income of all other foreign born ($78,395) and the native born ($90,556) in the metro areas. However, foreign-born from Afghanistan in the DC and Baltimore metro areas have significantly higher median personal and family income compared to Afghans living in the rest of the United States ($40,000) and ($39,000).

Afghan immigrants are slightly less likely to be homeowners (52 percent) in comparison to the rest of the foreign-born population (57 percent) and much less likely compared to native-born U.S. citizens (66 percent) in the Washington, DC and Baltimore, MD metro areas. However, this is not the case for all other Afghan immigrants living in the rest of the United States, as only 35 percent of them own a home.

Employment and Occupation: The largest proportions of Afghan immigrants in the Washington, DC and Baltimore, MD metro areas are employed in service occupations (19 percent) and sales and related occupations (18 percent), and management, business, and financial occupations (15 percent). Interestingly, service occupations and sales and related occupations are also among the top three occupations for Afghans who do not live in the two metro areas. The third occupation with the largest proportions of Afghans living in the rest of the United States is transportation and material moving. With regards to STEM occupations, Afghan immigrants are less likely to be employed in STEM occupations (6 percent) in comparison to all other foreign born (13 percent) and native-born U.S. citizens (12 percent) in the two metro areas.

Afghan immigrants in the DC and Baltimore metro areas are slightly more likely to be self-employed compared to all other foreign-born and native-born individuals. Ten percent of Afghan immigrants are self-employed and unincorporated, meaning they likely work as independent contractors, and three percent of them are self-employed in their own incorporated business. Looking at self-employment rates for Afghans living in the rest of the United States, eight percent of them are self-employed and not incorporated, and six percent have their own businesses. The median income for self-employed (including incorporated and unincorporated) Afghan immigrants is $32,000, which is lower than the median income for all other self-employed foreign-born individuals ($40,000) and native born ($62,000) in these two metro areas.

* Please note that the terms “immigrant” and “foreign born” are used interchangeably throughout this fact sheet. Foreign born refers to individuals who are not a U.S. citizen at birth or who were born outside the U.S., Puerto Rico or other U.S. territories and whose parents are not U.S. citizens. The foreign born may include naturalized U.S. citizens, Legal Permanent  Residents, temporary residents, refugees and asylees, and others. Additionally, native born includes those who are U.S. citizens at birth, those born in the United States, Puerto Rico, or other U.S. territories, and those born abroad to a parent who is a U.S. citizen.