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USA | Jan 20, 2022

Immigrants from Jamaica and Haiti at forefront as US black population swells

Gavin Riley

Gavin Riley / Our Today


Of the black population in the United States, which since 2019, has identified as originating from another country, the majority have traced their heritage to Jamaica.

Coming in a close second are individuals with Haitian ancestry, according to just-released findings from the Pew Research Center.

Pew Research, in a report on Thursday (January 20), found that roughly 4.6 million black people in the United States, or 10 per cent, were born in a different country as of 2019.

The figure, which has tripled from three per cent in 1980 and almost doubled estimates from 2000, essentially means that one-in-ten of the 46.8 million that self-identify as black in the US are immigrants, a trend expected to continue for years to come.

The report detailed that immigrants, particularly those from African and Caribbean nations, make up a growing share of the US black population—with the foreign-born segment playing an important role in growth over the past four decades.

Breaking down the data from the US Census Bureau’s 2019 Current Population Survey, Pew Research indicated that five Caribbean countries and five African nations apiece accounted for the bulk of immigrants.

(Graphic courtesy of Pew Research Center)

Jamaica and Haiti remained fixed among the top 10 places of origin, and their numbers continue to slowly increase. African countries, however, have seen an exponential rise in the number of citizens migrating to the United States, the study disclosed.

With 1.46 million immigrants between them, Jamaica and Haiti dominated the other top eight countries (Nigeria, Ethiopia, Dominican Republic, Ghana, Trinidad and Tobago, Kenya, Guyana and Somalia), which collectively totalled 1.58 million.

Beyond Africa and the Caribbean, about one-in-ten black immigrants (or roughly eight per cent) were born in South America, Central America, or Mexico, while relatively small shares originated from Europe (two per cent) or Asia (one per cent).

“Black immigrants from Africa have been the primary driver for much of the overall recent growth in the black immigrant population. Between 2000 and 2019, the black African immigrant population grew 246 per cent, from roughly 600,000 to 2.0 million. As a result, people of African origin now make up 42 per cent of the overall foreign-born black population, a substantial increase from 2000 when that share was 23 per cent,” wrote an analysis from Pew Research.

“Still, the Caribbean remains the most common region of birth for black immigrants. Just under half of the foreign-born black population were born in this region (46 per cent). Jamaica and Haiti are the two largest origin countries, accounting for 16 per cent and 15 per cent of black immigrants, respectively,” the Washington DC-based, nonpartisan fact tank added.

Despite racial tensions, the black population within the US continues to grow. In 2019, just before the onset of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 46.8 million people in the US identified their race as black, either alone or as part of a multiracial or ethnic background—up from 36.2 million in 2000.

The black share of the US population is slightly higher today than 20 years ago as well. About 14 per cent of the national population said they were black in 2019, up from 13 per cent who did so in 2000, according to Pew Research findings.

(Graphic courtesy of Pew Research Center)

Interestingly, black immigrants and their US-born children account for 21 per cent of the overall black population.


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