Afghan American Demographics

01 Jun
In the mid 20th Century, Afghans began migrating to the US for educational and professional purposes.  A general estimate of the Afghan American population in the U.S. is over 300,000.  While 20,000+ Afghan Americans reside in Northern Virginia, approximately 40,000 Afghans comprise the Diaspora community based in the San Francisco Bay Area.  There are also sporadic communities totaling 10,000 Afghan Americans throughout Southern California.  Additionally, smaller communities are also flourishing in New York, Georgia, Oregon, and Texas.

The Afghan American population in the US is indeed diverse, representing a variety of backgrounds, ethnicities, and religious affiliations. Pashtun and Tajik ethnicities are among the majority alongside minority communities of Uzbeks, Hazaras, Afghan Jews and Afghan Hindus.

The majority of Afghan Americans are Muslim, which includes both Sunni and Shia sects of Islam. There is a small community of Afghan Jews in New York City.  Afghans have a very complicated culture and they always value their cultures and family more than anything. Family obligations come first to immediate and extended families. The strength of the Afghan Americans in America lies in their strong sense of familial and tribal loyalty. Although strained by the dispersal of extended families and by financial stresses, the loyalty binds the Afghan Americans to their cultural traditions, which they have largely transported unchanged from their homeland.

Afghan Americans are struggling for the rebuilding of Afghanistan. Following the exodus of educated Afghans during the Soviet invasion of 1979, Afghanistan experienced a debilitating shortage of human resources. President Karzai himself has appealed to members of the Afghan Diaspora to come home and help reverse Afghanistan’s “brain drain.” In the wake of the September 11 attacks, the transitional government of Afghanistan in partnership with the United States established progressive reforms in order to enhance socioeconomic development in the private and public sector.

Numerous scholars and Afghan government officials have emphasized the role of the Diaspora in strengthening Afghanistan's civil society and reconstruction efforts. Expatriate engineers, doctors, legal experts and architects are providing much needed expertise and training, while their familiarity with Afghanistan’s cultures, people and languages is indispensable. Beyond applying their personal skills, many members of the Diaspora have traveled to Afghanistan and established their own organizations, hoping to contribute to the process of improvement in their native country.

Afghan American women have been highly active since the collapse of the Taliban. They have traveled to Afghanistan with their own organizations, such as micro-lending institutions aimed at helping Afghan women become successful entrepreneurs. These organizations play a critical role in providing the tools and the resources to support and strengthen the women in Afghanistan.  Afghan American women are taking greater steps in society and are actively engaged in efforts to further women’s rights.


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