State’s Rank by Arab American Population: 32

Census Estimated Arab American Population: 15,059*


Growth Trends

The population who identified as Arabic-speaking in the U.S. Census grew more than 42% between 2000 and 2017. The number of Alabamians who claim an Arab ancestry more than doubled since the Census first measured ethnic origins in 1980, and is among the fastest growing Arab populations in the country. The Census Bureau estimates the statewide population is close to 15,059.*


The largest number of new Arab immigrants to Alabama came from Yemen, Iraq and Jordan.

How Do Arab Americans Identify Themselves?

Primary Ethnic Identification is derived from responses to the ancestry question on the American Community Survey. Census data on “Arabs” include the responses: Lebanese, Syrian, Egyptian, Iraqi, Jordanian, Palestinian, Moroccan, Arab or Arabic. The following countries are collapsed as “Other Arab”: Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Kuwait, Libya, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

We also include Arabic-speaking persons who identify as Assyrian/Chaldean, Somali, or Sudanese, identities which are not aggregated as Arab in Census reports. In Alabama, according to the Census Bureau, the largest component of the Arab American community in the state has Lebanese or Syrian roots. Since 2010, significant increases appear in the number of Alabamians who are of Syrian and Egyptian decent.

Where Do Alabamian Arab Americans Live?

Arab Americans in Alabama reside in 45 of the 67 counties in the state.


Other than being mandated by the U.S. Constitution, the Census is important because it impacts all aspects of our daily lives as Arab Americans. Census data plays a crucial role in determining our access to resources - from education to roads and health care. Businesses use census data to decide where they want to invest their funds, such as when deciding to expand to new markets, locations, etc. The federal government uses census data to decide how much money to allocate for necessary services that we often take for granted, such as repaving roads and repairing street lights. In our public education systems, census data help provide free and reduced lunch to low income students, education programs like bilingual language programs, English as a Second Language programs, career and technical grants, and financial aid for students.

Other than the government funding, which is over $800 million for over 10 years, the census data impact voting processes and communities’ representation in office. Local and state governments rely on census data about districts with higher numbers of non-fluent English speakers, so they provide bilingual poll workers and Arabic translation services. The census data determine how congressional, local, and state districts are drawn which impacts where your children go to school, who is able to run for office where, and who you are able to vote for to represent you in office. An undercount could mean that Alabama does in fact lose a congressional seat as it is projected to after the 2020 Census count.  

It is for all these reasons why we must ensure all Arab Americans are fairly and accurately counted. To ensure that our communities get the accurate and adequate funding that they deserve for everyone.

*Research by AAI suggests the number above is likely significantly lower than the actual number of Arab Americans in the state. The American Community Survey identifies only a portion of the Arab population through a question on “ancestry.” Reasons for the undercount include the placement and limitations of the ancestry question (as distinct from race and ethnicity); the effect of the sample methodology on small, unevenly distributed ethnic groups; high levels of out-marriage among the third and fourth generations; and distrust/misunderstanding of government surveys among recent immigrants.

**Immigration data pulled from the Department of Homeland Security does not include data for Palestinian immigration. AAI has reached out to attempt to gather the data and get a response from DHS but they have declined to do so.

Sources: American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates (2017), American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates (2013-2017), 2000 US Census– U.S. Census Bureau; Yearbook of Immigration Statistics 2009-2016—Office of Immigration Statistics, Department of Homeland Security

©2019 Arab American Institute Foundation

Arab American Population Growth

Immigrants By Country of Origin (2009-2016)**

Arab American Population by County, 2017

Firas Nasr