Arab Americans account for nearly 6% of the workforce and earn between $5.4 billion and $7.7 billion a year in southeast Michigan, according to a Wayne State University report released Wednesday.

Still, businesses often fail to recognize their economic power.

The 28-page WSU study titled “Arab American Economic Contribution Study” and a recent J. Walter Thompson survey called Marketing to Muslims, provide a fuller picture of the economic contributions of Arabs and Muslims.

“In the U.S., the Arab and Muslim communities are small but generally very affluent and highly entrepreneurial,” Nasser Beydoun, chairman of the Arab American Chamber of Commerce said Wednesday in Dearborn.

The WSU paper, researched and produced by the Center for Urban Studies, cites figures from the 2000 U.S. Census for Macomb, Wayne, Oakland and Washtenaw counties.

Only a few Detroit-area companies actively cultivate Muslims as consumers. Staff members from Comerica Bank, Ikea and AT&T have participated in awareness programs to address needs of Muslim consumers.

Michigan is home to the largest concentration of Arab Americans outside the Middle East — about 400,000 in metropolitan Detroit and 500,000 statewide.

Nationwide, with an estimated population of 6 million to 8 million, Muslim Americans’ purchasing power is estimated to be $170 billion annually.

Although often associated with Arabs, Muslims represent dozens of ethnic groups, including whites, blacks, Hispanics and Asians.

Understanding the differences between ethnicity and religion is one barrier that often confounds advertisers interested in selling to Muslim populations.


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