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Pew: 9 Percent of U.S. Black Population is Foreign Born

A new Pew Research Center report out Thursday finds that black immigrants now account for 8.7 percent of the country’s black population, nearly triple their share in 1980. A record 3.8 million black immigrants are living in the nation today and while most are from the Caribbean, Africans immigrants drive most recent growth.

Rapid growth is expected to continue: The Census Bureau projects that by 2060, 16.5 percent of U.S. blacks will be immigrants.

The report defines black immigrants as current U.S. residents born outside the U.S. who indicate that their race is black or is mixed-race black, regardless of Hispanic origin. The report also compares the characteristics of black immigrants to U.S.-born blacks, foreign-born U.S. residents and the general U.S. population.

Black immigrants are more likely than U.S.-born blacks to have a college degree (26% versus 19%), or to be married. Compared with all U.S. immigrants, immigrant blacks are more likely to hold U.S. citizenship and to speak English proficiently.

When compared with U.S.- born blacks, foreign-born blacks are older, with a median age of 42 years versus 29 years for U.S.-born blacks. Immigrant blacks are less likely to live in poverty (20% versus 28%) and on average, have higher household incomes.

Compared with the U.S. population overall, black immigrants are slightly less likely to have a college degree (26% versus 30%), are less likely than all Americans to own their homes (40% versus 64%), and overall they have lower household incomes.

Among the metropolitan areas with the largest black populations, roughly a third of blacks (34%) living in Miami are immigrants. In the New York metro area, that share is 28 percent. And in the Washington, D.C., area, it is 15 percent.

Black immigrants are from many parts of the world, but half are from the Caribbean alone. 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.

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.

Here are a few other takeaways from the report:

Citizenship

-- Compared with other U.S. immigrants, black immigrants are a more recently arrived immigrant population. Close to half (45%) of black immigrants arrived in the U.S. in 2000 or later, with 24 percent saying they arrived sometime in 2006 or later, according to analysis of the 2013 American Community Survey.

-- A majority of black immigrants—54 percent—hold U.S. citizenship, a higher share than among all U.S. immigrants (47%). Pew estimates about 575,000 black immigrants are living in the U.S. without authorization, making up 16 percent of all black immigrants.

-- Citizenship rates are highest among black immigrants from South America and the Caribbean—62 percent and 59 percent, respectively. By contrast, less than half (47 percent) of the black African immigrant population are U.S. citizens, quite possibly because they generally have arrived more recently than other black immigrants.

Education

-- About a quarter (26%) of black immigrants ages 25 and older have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 28 percent of all U.S. immigrants. This share is below that of the overall U.S. population, in which 30 percent of U.S. adults 25 and older have at least a bachelor’s degree. However, the share with an advanced degree, is similar among all Americans (11%) and black immigrants (10%).

-- By comparison, U.S.-born blacks ages 25 
and older are less likely to have at least a bachelor’s degree than black immigrants—19% compared with 26%.

-- There are striking differences when comparing black immigrants with Asian immigrants and with Hispanic immigrants. Among those 25 and older, 50% of all Asian immigrants have completed at least a four-year degree; but only 11% of Hispanic immigrants have done so.

Household Income

-- The median annual household income for foreign-born blacks in 2013 was $43,800. That’s roughly $8,000 less than the $52,000 median for American households.

-- Black immigrants’ median annual household income is below that of all U.S. immigrants ($43,800 vs. $48,000). Among immigrants, there are differences. While the median household income for black immigrants is higher than it is for Hispanic immigrants ($43,800 vs. $38,000), both groups have median household incomes substantially below that of Asian immigrants, whose median household income is $70,600.

-- Foreign-born blacks have a higher median income than U.S.-born blacks. U.S.-born blacks have a median household income of $33,500, a full $10,000 less than that among foreign-born black households.

Poverty

-- One-in-five (20%) black immigrants live below the poverty line, according to the Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau data. That share is below that of U.S.-born blacks, who have a poverty rate of 28 percent. But the poverty rate among black immigrants is higher than it is among all Americans (16%).

Geographic Location

-- The nation’s black immigrant population is highly concentrated. More than eight-in-ten (82%) of them live in just two regions— 41 percent live in the Northeast and 41 percent live in the South. Meanwhile, the Midwest and West are home to just 9 percent each of the black immigrant population.

-- Black immigrants from the Caribbean are more concentrated in the Northeast and the South—95 percent live there—than the overall black immigrant population.

By contrast, the black African
 immigrant population is more
 dispersed, with 40 percent in the 
South, 25 percent in the Northeast,
19 percent in the Midwest and 16 percent 
in the West.

-- Looking at the top states of residence for the nation’s black immigrants, one-in-four (24%), or 910,000, live in New York state alone. Florida has the second-largest foreign-born black population with 661,000, followed by New Jersey, Maryland and Massachusetts.

-- Some black immigrant country of origin communities are clustered around particular metropolitan areas. For example, the New York metro area is home to roughly 250,000 black Jamaican immigrants, or nearly 40 percent of all foreign-born black Jamaicans in the U.S. The Miami metropolitan area has the nation’s largest black Haitian immigrant community—more than 211,000 black Haitian immigrants, equal to 36 percent of its population in the U.S.

-- The Washington, D.C., metro area is home to the biggest black Ethiopian immigrant community in the country with 46,000 black Ethiopian immigrants living there, equivalent to 24 percent of that group’s U.S. population, while 25,000, or 31 percent of the black Somalian immigrant population lives in the Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington metro area of Minnesota and Wisconsin.

-- Recent growth 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. Africans now make up 36 percent of the total foreign-born black population, up from just 7 percent in 1980.

-- Among black immigrants from 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.