A new study has found that a rising share of the United States Black population is Caribbean-born.
In an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data, the Pew Research Institute (PRI) finds that a record 3.8 million Black immigrants live in the United States today, more than four times the number in 1980.
The study finds that Black immigrants now account for 8.7 percent of America’s Black population, nearly triple their share in 1980.
“Rapid growth in the Black immigrant population is expected to continue,” says the research institute, noting that the U.S. Census Bureau projects that, by 2060, 16.5 percent of U.S. Blacks will be immigrants.
In certain metropolitan areas, foreign-born blacks make up a significant share of the overall Black population, PRI finds.
For example, among the metropolitan areas with the largest Black populations, roughly a third of Blacks – 34 percent – living in the Miami metro area are immigrants. In the New York metro area, that share is 28 percent. And in the Washington, D.C., area, it is 15 percent, Pew says.
The research institute says while Black immigrants are from many parts of the world, half are from the Caribbean alone.
It says Jamaica is the largest source country, with about 682,000 Black immigrants born there, accounting for 18 percent of the national total.
Haiti follows with 586,000 Black immigrants, making up 15 percent of the U.S. Black immigrant population.
However, PRI finds that much of the recent growth in the size of the Black immigrant population has been fueled by African immigration.
Between 2000 and 2013, the number of Black African immigrants living in the U.S. rose 137 percent, from 574,000 to 1.4 million.
PRI finds that Africans now make up 36 percent of the total foreign-born Black population, up from 24 percent in 2000 and just 7 percent in 1980.
Among Black immigrants from Africa, virtually all are from sub-Saharan African countries, with only 1 percent of all Black immigrants from North Africa.
Nigeria, with 226,000 immigrants, and Ethiopia, with 191,000, are the two largest birth countries for Black African immigrants to the U.S., the study finds.
PRI says Black immigrants have roots in other parts of the world as well. Some 5 percent of all Black immigrants are from South America and 4 percent are from Central America.
Those from Europe make up 2 percent of the population and those from South and East Asia make up 1 percent, PRI finds.
It says many Black immigrants are from Spanish-speaking countries. Among these, the Dominican Republic is the largest country of birth, accounting for 166,000 black immigrants.
Mexico is also a source of Black immigration with roughly 70,000 Black immigrants.
Some 41,000 are from Cuba, and 32,000 are Panamanian. Moreover, 11 percent of the foreign-born black population identifies as Hispanic, PRI finds.
It notes that the United States has long had a significant Black population. In the nation’s earliest censuses, at the end of the 18th century, Blacks accounted for nearly one-fifth of the U.S. population, with nearly all brought to the U.S. as slaves from Africa.
Today, PRI says most of America’s 40 million U.S.-born Blacks trace their roots to this population.
However, due to the outlawing of the slave trade in 1808, as well as restrictions on non-European immigration, the flow of Blacks arriving in the U.S. dropped to a trickle for more than a century and a half, PRI says.
It says among the Black immigrants who voluntarily migrated during this time, most were from the Caribbean.
PRI says the modern wave of Black immigration to the U.S. began when U.S. immigration policy changed in the 1960s, becoming more open to a wider variety of migrants.
Just like other immigrants, PRI says foreign-born Blacks benefited from the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 that emphasized family reunification and skilled immigrant labor.
In addition, it says the Refugee Act of 1980 loosened immigration restrictions by allowing more immigrants from conflict areas, such as Ethiopia and Somalia, to seek asylum in the U.S.
The U.S. Immigration Act of 1990 sought to increase the number of immigrants from underrepresented nations, and although the act was initially intended to increase the flow of European immigrants, Africans have benefited from the program, as well, according to PRI.
It says this act, also known as the diversity visa program, has been “an important way for African immigrants to gain entry into the U.S.,” adding that about one-in-five sub-Saharan African immigrants (19 percent) who gained legal permanent residence between 2000 and 2013 entered through this program.
During the same period, PRI says about three-in-10 (28 percent) sub-Saharan African immigrants arrived in the U.S. as refugees or asylees.
That share was only 5 percent for Caribbean immigrants and 13 percent for the overall immigrant population, PRI says, stating that Caribbean immigrants are much more likely to enter the U.S. through family-sponsored.
Additionally, PRI says Caribbean and sub-Saharan African immigrants are less likely to have been granted admittance via employment-based visa programs than immigrants overall.
Given that many Black immigrants are from English-speaking Caribbean nations, PRI says they’re also more likely to be proficient in English, compared with all immigrants (74 percent versus 50 percent).