Article from ROAPE Volume 29 Number 92
African Brain Drain: Igbo Decisions to Immigrate to the US
This article outlines the conditions under which a particular group of professional Nigerians has made the decision to immigrate to the United States and how, once abroad, they have established a continuum for immigration from the home area. The paper has been generated from fieldwork and interviews among Igbo people in the Chicago area, conducted between 1997 and 2000. The article explains the educational, cultural and economic conditions under which Igbo immigration to the US in the late 1970s and early 1980s were undertaken - the time during which members of the immigrant network came to the US. My work here constitutes an effort to define the way that a particular group of immigrants to Chicago came to develop and how they now utilise an immigrant social network. My preliminary question here: how did the Nigerians in my social network make the decision to immigrate to the States? Although there are several factors that affect this decision, for my study, I focus most closely on two interrelated factors: education and cultural specific institutions like household economic decision making patterns. Those factors were chosen because among Igbo middle-class people of this generation, the need for educational opportunities and a tradition of emigration appears to be the necessary conditions to make an Igbo person decide to immigrate, while economic factors like reduced economic opportunities in Nigeria or lower pay were merely sufficient conditions. The qualitative data presented here is intended to give new shape to research questions that will further develop our understanding of how the socio-economics of schooling and educational opportunities in Africa and the US come together to reinforce the brain-drain process in which promising young professionals leave Africa for industrialised regions.