Arabs & Chaldeans in Metro Detroit: 
A Tri-County Portrait

Why this Report?

The Arab and Chaldean community of metropolitan Detroit, specifically the counties of Macomb, Oakland and Wayne (where Detroit is located), is large, vibrant and continually growing. 

This report will show that the Arab and Chaldean community, though lumped into the White racial category by the U.S. Census (following guidelines from the federal Office of Management and Budget), is quite distinct from the White population. The diverse Arab and Chaldean populations may trace their ancestry to different countries, speak different dialects or languages, practice different religions and fall into a broad range of socio-economic categories, but they have much more in common with each other than with any other ethnic or racial group. Using the best available data from the U.S. Census’ American Community Survey (ACS), this report demonstrates that, when Arabs and Chaldeans are disaggregated from the White racial category, a picture of a unique community emerges. 

There are limitations of the data in this report. First, there is historic undercounting of Arab and Chaldean communities by the U.S. Census for many reasons. Although the total population numbers in this report may be lower than actual, the data trends depicted herein accurately represent the community. Second, the data in this report was compiled by disaggregating Arabs and Chaldeans from the White racial category, and therefore does not include data from Arabs who select Black on the Census, or from Arabic-speaking countries that the Census does not code within the Arab ancestry group, such as Sudanese or Somali. Black Arabs account for only a small percentage of the Arab and Chaldean community in metro Detroit, although there are vibrant Sudanese and Somali communities in Michigan. (For data on the national Black Arab community, see our report “Arab Americans: A Community Portrait”).

The Arab and Chaldean community of metropolitan Detroit, specifically the counties of Macomb, Oakland and Wayne (where Detroit is located), is large, vibrant and continually growing. 

About ACCESS

This report was created by ACCESS, the largest Arab American community nonprofit in the nation, as a product of its Arab American Research Initiative to secure better data on the national community. As the leading Arab American community-based organization, ACCESS has worked, for nearly 50 years, as a service provider. The agency services approximately 70,000 individuals from disenfranchised communities—primarily those representing the Arabic-speaking community—on an annual basis. ACCESS has offices in the heart of the Arab American community in Wayne County, and also in Macomb County, where the majority of Chaldeans live. This on-the-ground experience has allowed for a comprehensive understanding of the needs and challenges facing this critically underrepresented community.

Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb Counties

Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties are the three most populous counties in Michigan, and comprise metro Detroit. These three counties also have the largest Arab and Chaldean populations in the state, as well as some of the most concentrated Arab and Chaldean populations in the nation.  

The Arab and Chaldean community is very diverse across the three counties. There are Christians and Muslims of all sects, Druze, Mandaean and other faith groups, as well as secular people. The Arabs and Chaldeans in metro Detroit trace their ancestry to many countries, including (in descending order by population) Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen, Syria and Palestine. There are also Egyptian, Jordanian and Sudanese communities, among others. 

As you will see from the interactive graphs in this report, the Arab and Chaldean community in metro Detroit is young, has larger families than the White population and tends to live in multi-generational households. 

There is also a paradox in the community. Arabs and Chaldeans across the three counties earn college degrees and own homes at high rates, but are also more likely to be unemployed and live below the poverty level than the White population. With more effective data we could better determine the causes for this paradox, but it can likely be attributed to the unique nature of the Arab and Chaldean community in metro Detroit: a large number of the community have recently arrived from home countries embedded in civil strife, particularly Iraq, Syria and Yemen. These recent immigrants and refugees may have lacked access to formalized education and medical care in their home countries. ACCESS and other human service agencies in Michigan are working to empower all community members to become more self-sufficient. We know from historical trends that Arab and Chaldean immigrants are adept at finding and creating resources for themselves and their communities.

Total by Location and Ethnicity

Although the Arab and Chaldean populations look small by comparison on this graph, it is important to remember that the community tends to be young, have more children than average and, up until the series of travel bans implemented by the President Trump administration in 2017, was receiving thousands of new immigrants every year. It is truly a growing community. 

Mean Age by Location and Ethnicity

The Arab and Chaldean populations are young, with a mean age of 31.7 years, compared with 40.9 in the White population. 

Use the filter to change the graphs between each county.

Education

Arabs and Chaldeans value education. In metro Detroit, there is a high percentage of Arabs and Chaldeans with at least a college degree. However, due to the fact that many Arabs and Chaldeans in the region have had their formal education disrupted by war and civil strife in their home countries, a high percentage also reports having less than a high school degree.

Healthcare

The American Community Survey only contains two health-related variables: healthcare coverage, and disability prevalence and severity. Arabs and Chaldeans are less likely than the White population to have any health insurance. And, if Arabs and Chaldeans do have health insurance, they are more likely to have public insurance. From the data, we know that Arabs and Chaldeans in Metro Detroit have a higher rate of disability severity than Arabs and Chaldeans in other major metro areas. (See our report “Arab Americans: A Community Portrait” for more comparisons across metro areas).

Labor Force

Arabs and Chaldeans have a slightly higher rate of unemployment than the White population in metro Detroit, and also a slightly higher rate of unemployment than Arabs and Chaldeans in other major metro areas (Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston, New York/New Jersey and Washington, D.C.). 

Poverty

There is a lot of prosperity in the Arab and Chaldean community of metro Detroit, but also a lot of poverty. Due to the makeup of the community, with many recent immigrants and refugees, poverty is a real issue that is being addressed by many human service agencies, including ACCESS. More than 40% of Arabs and Chaldeans in metro Detroit are living at 125% or below the poverty rate.

Family

Arabs and Chaldeans in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties are more likely to have larger families and live in households with at least two generations, compared to the White population. In Wayne County, approximately 57% of Arab and Chaldean households contain at least 5 people.

Language & Nativity

Compared to Arabs and Chaldeans in other major metro areas, Arabs and Chaldeans in the metro Detroit area are the most likely to be linguistically isolated, even though they are not more likely to be foreign born.

About the Data

This report is a project of the ACCESS Arab American Research Initiative. The data was compiled by Dr. Jen’nan Read (Duke University) and Dr. Kristine Ajrouch (Eastern Michigan University) with assistance from Jessica West (Duke University).

Data is from the 2010-2014 5-year estimates published by the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS). Unlike the decennial Census—which is meant to be an exact count of all people and households in the U.S. every 10 years—the ACS estimates population characteristics through a representative survey sample carried out in small regions of the U.S. throughout the year.

The ACS releases two kinds of data: one-year and five-year estimates. The one-year estimates provide more current data, but are not available for small locations like census tracts, and are unreliable for small demographic slices. The five-year estimates are meant to approximate the characteristics of the entire U.S. population, and therefore provide greater detail and accuracy by widening the period of the survey.

Additional Resources

ACCESS Homepage: Learn more about ACCESS

Arab American Research Initiative

• Arab Health Summit: A global call to action on health equity and social justice